Drug Addiction: Definition With Examples and Support

A properly functioning reward system motivates a person to repeat behaviors needed to thrive, such as eating and spending time with loved ones. Surges of dopamine in the reward circuit cause the reinforcement of pleasurable but unhealthy behaviors like taking drugs, leading people to repeat the behavior again and again. If treated, the prognosis of alcoholism and other drug abuse and addiction disorders improves but is not without challenges. Episodes of remission (abstinence from drug use) and relapse characterize recovery from substance dependency. The parts of the brain that tend to harbor the executive brain functions are the front-most parts of the brain, called the frontal lobes, including the frontal cortex and prefrontal cortex. When a person takes drugs, the inhibitory functions of the brain are particularly impaired, causing the person to have trouble stopping him or herself from acting on impulses that the brain would otherwise delay or prevent.

Marijuana, hashish and other cannabis-containing substances

what is drug addiction

Drug law infractions are a highly common reason for arrests in the United States, with more than 1.5 million occurring in 2016. A number of different prevention approaches are effective in decreasing the risk of drug abuse and addiction disorders. Lifestyle changes, like increased physical activity and using other stress-reduction techniques, help prevent drug use disorder in teens. For example, the Raising Healthy Children program, which includes interventions for teachers, parents, and students, helps prevent drug addiction in elementary school children when the program goes on for 18 months or more. Designing research-based prevention programs to meet the specific needs of children by age and specific community strengths and challenges contributes to the success of those programs. The prevalence of easier access to technology led to the development of computer-based prevention programs.

When to see a doctor

The prevalence of addiction costs the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars every year. Addiction is a chronic condition that can also result from taking medications. In fact, the misuse of opioids — particularly illicitly made fentanyl — caused nearly 50,000 deaths in the United States in 2019 alone.

Reward learning

While there is evidence to support this as a disorder, experts conclude it is not yet clear to what extent it is a clinically significant disorder. Substance use disorder can negatively affect a person’s relationships, finances, employment, and other aspects of their life. Opioids are narcotic, painkilling drugs produced from opium or made synthetically. This class of drugs includes, among others, heroin, morphine, codeine, methadone, fentanyl and oxycodone. Stimulants include amphetamines, meth (methamphetamine), cocaine, methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, others) and amphetamine-dextroamphetamine (Adderall XR, Mydayis). They’re often used and misused in search of a “high,” or to boost energy, to improve performance at work or school, or to lose weight or control appetite.

There’s not a single cause of addiction — it’s a very complex condition. A significant part of how addiction develops is through changes in your brain chemistry. Young children may swallow drugs by accident because of their curiosity about medications they may find.

  • Some studies suggest a person’s risk of becoming addicted is partly genetic, but environmental factors, such as being around other people with addictions, are also thought to increase the risk.
  • Unemployment and poverty can trigger addiction, along with stress and emotional or professional pressure.
  • Just as alcohol has a recognized social place in the West, so many other psychotropics have been accepted in different societies.
  • They can lead to permanent health complications and serious consequences like bankruptcy.
  • The cultivation of marijuana and the production of synthetic drugs like methamphetamine have a negative impact on soil and water supplies.

Effects of Drug Addiction

Signs and symptoms of drug use or intoxication may vary, depending on the type of drug. “A future direction would be to understand what exactly these myelin-forming cells are responding to that comes from the activity of dopaminergic neurons,” Yalcin said. Both the speed and specificity of the changes were unexpected, the researchers said. Much of the foundational knowledge about adaptive myelination has come from Monje’s lab. In 2014, her team reported that stimulating the premotor cortex of mice increased the myelination of neurons there and improved limb movement.

That’s greater than the populations of New York and Florida combined. Drug availability is widespread across all socioeconomic groups in America, with prescription drugs, illegal substances and alcohol being readily accessible. However, people most commonly use medications during detoxification to manage withdrawal symptoms. The medication will vary depending on the substance that the person is addicted to. A person with an addictive disorder requires access to treatment.

what is drug addiction

However, regular or longer-term use of opioids can lead to addiction. Misuse of these drugs or taking someone else’s medication can have dangerous—even deadly—consequences. Drug abuse and addiction is less about the type or amount of the substance consumed or the frequency of your drug use, what is drug addiction and more about the consequences of that drug use. If your drug use is causing problems in your life—at work, school, home, or in your relationships—you likely have a drug abuse or addiction problem. Of course, drug use—either illegal or prescription—doesn’t automatically lead to abuse.

Common symptoms of drug addiction

While addiction to substances has often appeared clear-cut, there’s some controversy about what substances are truly addictive. Behavioral addictions can occur with any activity that’s capable of stimulating your brain’s reward system. Drugs are chemical substances that can change how your body and mind work. They include prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs. Substance use disorder (SUD) is a complex condition in which there is uncontrolled use of a substance despite harmful consequences.


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