Drug Addiction

Before the 1930s when scientists first began studying the science behind addictive behavior, those who struggled with drug addiction, or substance use disorder, were thought of as weak willed.

As a result, society also judged addicts much the same way, even going so far as saying they were morally flawed. Today, scientists know better and are no longer laboring in the shadows of these various misconceptions and myths surrounding drug addiction.

Through research, science has discovered that a person who happens to be an addict can still be a “good person.” They have come to this conclusion based on the fact that drug addiction has the scientific make up of a disease.

Therefore, those who are addicts are not bad people in general, but instead are suffering from a brain disease they need treatment to overcome. When you as a caregiver consider your loved one’s drug addiction a disease, you can sympathize with (though not justify) the problems that were caused by their drug addiction.

What is Drug Addiction?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug addiction is best defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use. Drug Addiction being classified as a brain disease is a result of the fact that the brain is structurally altered due to drug abuse.

How the Brain is Altered by Drug Use:

The brain is made up of various parts, which all work concertedly with each other. Drug use can alter various important brain functions, as mentioned above, and can eventually drive the compulsive substance abuse that marks drug addiction.

In other words, the brain is altered by the drugs, which makes the addict feel they have to continue the harmful practice of drug use. A harmful cycle to be sure.

The following are the areas in the brain that are altered by drug abuse:

  • The Limbic System: This area of the brain is essentially the body’s reward circuit. It regulates one’s ability to feel pleasure. Drugs abuse can alter this area, causing changes in mood.
  • The Cerebral Cortex: This part of the brain processes sensory information. The front part is the thinking area. Drugs alter this area, making it difficult for addicts to make good decisions.
  • The Brain Stem: This crucial area of the brain controls the body’s basic functions, such as heart rate

Drug Addiction Treatment

Who is at the Most Risk for Drug Addiction?

Not everyone who takes drugs once will become an addict, which is due to various factors. One of the biggest predictors of drug addiction; however, is a person’s genetic predisposition to addictive behavior.

According to scientific estimates, the presence of genetic factors can account for as much as 40 to 60% of a person’s risk of drug addiction. Additional risk factors include environment, such as living conditions and peer influences, among others.

It is the presence of these multiple risk factors that make drug addiction treatment necessary. A change in scenery removes many peer influences and external factors, and a drug treatment program that incorporates family therapy into treatment plans helps repair broken relationships.