A drug addiction is a chronic brain disease that causes compulsive drug use. The constant abuse of these drugs can lead to changes in the functions and physical structure of the brain itself. Despite the hazardous risks and consequences to the addict and those around them, the affected individual cannot usually control his or her urges and will continue to abuse the substance to which he/she is addicted.
What Is a Drug Addiction?
Many people simply do not understand the nature of a drug addiction. They just assume that a drug addict has no willpower and that he/she could stop abusing drugs simply by deciding to stop. However, in reality, a drug addiction is an incredibly complex illness that can change a person completely, mentally and physically.
Although the initial decision to partake in drug use is usually voluntary in most cases, frequent drug use can change the neural pathways in the brain, making it much more difficult for the individual to have any self-control and resist cravings. These variations in the brain can be persistent, which is why a drug addiction is classed as a ‘relapsing’ illness. In effect, this means that those recovering from a drug addiction have a higher risk of returning to drug use, even after months and years of sobriety.
What Happens to the Brain While a Person Is Taking Drugs?
When an individual takes a drug, his/her brain releases a chemical known as dopamine. One effect of dopamine is in the brain’s ‘reward circuit’ and its ability to feel pleasure; this will encourage an individual to repeatedly partake in behaviours that are pleasurable. When dopamine affects this reward circuit, it can overstimulate the system, causing the euphoric ‘high’ feeling that can lead to repeated drug use and, possibly, to addiction.
Through continued drug use, the brain begins to adjust to the excessive amounts of dopamine by reducing its ability to respond to the dopamine or by producing less of it. This will decrease the high feeling that the individual will experience compared to the feeling they experienced when they first started taking the drug. This is known as tolerance. An increased tolerance can result in the individual taking more drugs to make up for the fact that they are not getting the same pleasurable experience as they once were, which then can lead on to drug addiction.
A Drug Addictions Devastating Impact on the Family
A drug addiction can have a devastating impact, not only on the addict but also on their close friends and families too. This is something that a seven-year-old child from the outskirts of Pittsburgh in the United States had to discover in brutal and heart-breaking circumstances. This innocent child had been trying to wake her parents up for more than a day with no luck; both had died of a suspected drug overdose, according to police. The little girl had gone about her day normally, getting herself dressed and off to school, all the while being confused about her ‘sleeping’ parents.
On the bus ride home, she had told the driver that she had been unable to wake her ‘sleeping’ parents; he then contacted the police after suspecting something was seriously wrong. Inside the home, police found the bodies of the girls’ parents. They also found three other children aged just nine months old, three and five. All of the children were unharmed but were taken to the hospital as a precaution and then placed in the care of the county’s Children, Youth and Families’ Department.
This is something that is going to haunt that little girl for the rest of her life. She and her siblings will have to grow up without the care and love of their parents because of a drug addiction. Had the parents sought out medical help, they may still have been alive and not shattered the innocent lives of their four young children.
Symptoms of Drug Abuse
The many different drugs available today come with many different side effects. It can be hard to work out what drug a loved one or friend may be addicted to because of the sheer number of symptoms that can be displayed. Some symptoms common to many drugs include:
- chills and sweating
- behavioural changes, i.e. aggressive behaviour
- dilated pupils.
If you notice a friend or loved one displaying any of these symptoms or otherwise acting strange or different, you should seek help. Liberty House can provide advice and information regarding drug addiction and its treatment, so contact us today to find out more.
Source: Parents found dead after seven-year-old daughter told her school bus driver she couldn’t wake them up (The Independent)