Drug addiction can be widely misunderstood. While each person’s individual circumstances will vary there are some things that hold true for most people who suffer from an addiction to legal or illegal substances.
They Do It For The Dopamine
The brain experiences pleasure, good or bad, in the same way–with a big hit of dopamine. The brain is prewired to seek pleasure, and dopamine plays a big part in that. This powerful chemical reinforces an activity if it is perceived as a reward. The greater the dopamine hit, the greater the desire to repeat that action. Drug use results in a higher than normal release of dopamine. The pleasure we feel from day-to-day activities like eating, having sex or other normal physiological activities can pale considerably when compared to the dopamine surge that follows drug use. As drug abuse continues, more and more drugs are required to achieve the same sensation. This is referred to as desensitization and is the basic pattern of addiction.
There Are Signs and Symptoms
When someone becomes addicted to a substance it will affect not only their physical well-being but their mental and emotional state as well. As family and friends, we can be aware of physical changes that may indicate something is wrong. Some of the most common physical signs are:
Bloodshot or dilated eyes
Drastic weight changes
In addition to physical changes, addicts can feel a wide range of emotions and behavior can become erratic. Emotional signs you should watch for include:
Changes in personal interests
Changes at work
Regardless of what you notice in a loved one, be mindful of how you approach someone you suspect may be struggling with addiction. It may be wise to enlist the help of a trusted counselor or therapist before confronting someone.
Addiction Can Affect Anyone
Addiction is no respecter of persons. Whether you are male, female, old, young, rich or poor you are at risk. As drugs become more and more accessible, Americans are more likely to use illicit drugs. Legal or prescription drugs can also be abused. People who were prescribed opioids for legitimate medical conditions can develop a dependency and an addiction that can be life-changing. While there are places in the US that rank higher than others, no state is immune to the devasting effects of drug abuse. A study conducted by the American Addiction Center (AAC) showed that drug use is rampant all across the nation, and offenses and incarcerations for drug users are on the rise. No one is immune, drug addiction can hit anyone, anywhere and at any time.
Recovery is Not Just About Willpower
Time and research have proven that addiction is not about someone’s willpower or lack thereof. People once ignorantly assumed addicts were weak and lacked the ability to stop something that was harming them and those around them. We now understand the intense impact brain chemicals and genetic predisposition can have on substance abuse. People with addictions are still people and they deserve our respect as they battle what is most likely the greatest struggle of their lives.
Prevention is Possible
Educating children and teens about drug abuse can help them understand the risks associated with the choice to use drugs. Youth can also benefit from having strong role models, such as parents, teachers, or older siblings. Being able to ask questions about drugs and communicate their feelings and fears with someone they trust can make a huge difference.
Research has also shown that youth who are involved in school clubs, music or sports can benefit from being a part of something. This sense of belonging and accomplishment can help them avoid getting caught up in drugs and help them look forward to the future.