How do people get addicted to drugs while others don’t? Some may be using drugs for several years and not be addicted, while there are those who may have tried drugs for just a short while and become hooked almost instantly. Why does this happen?
These are just some of the many questions surrounding drug use and addiction. The truth is, substance addiction is a complex disease, and quitting takes way more than just the will to stop. In fact, drugs change the brain in hard-hitting, often irreversible, ways that many will still find themselves seeking drugs even after recovery.
So, what is drug addiction?
The clinical definition is that addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive. This means it’s difficult to control and that they may still persist with the drug seeking behavior even if it brings them harm or danger.
For some people, the decision to take or “try out” drugs is voluntary. However, repeated use can impact the brain, wherein self-control is affected and it becomes harder for the user to resist the urge to take drugs. Soon, this develops into addiction.
What happens when a person takes drugs?
Different drugs affect the brain and body in different ways. However, they impact the brain’s reward system in almost the same way. The drugs cause a sense of euphoria as it floods the brain’s reward circuit with dopamine. Usually, this rewards circuitry of the brain is responsible in enforcing pleasurable and rewarding behaviors. It also affects motivation so that people will do things that will help them thrive, such as eating and spending time with family or a significant other. However, the drugs overtake this system and will have a tight grip on it.
As the person continues to use drugs, the reward system is held hostaged, so the brain will not respond to any other stimuli other than the drug. That’s the only way they may feel happy or rewarded, and would therefore continually seek this even despite the many problems and harmful effects it is causing.
Therefore, when one repeatedly uses these drugs, you will see changes in:
- coping with stress
Why do people get addicted while others don’t?
The drugs itself is not the only factor in this. There are actually many factors that influence a person’s likelihood to become addicted. Let’s take a quick look at these factors:
- Biology. A person’s genes may have something to do with the chances of developing addiction. Gender, ethnicity, and the presence of having a mental illness (as a co-occurring disorder) may also be considered.
- Environment. From upbringing to social influences, as well as early exposure to drugs, abuse or trauma, can also be taken into consideration. Those who grew up with parents or other people who take drugs are also more likely to use drugs themselves.
- Development. While taking drugs at any age can still cause addiction, it’s a known fact that the earlier a person takes drugs. the more likely it is for them to progress into addiction. This is why teens must be protected and education and awareness is important.