What is Drug Addiction?

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.

It is a chronic brain disease and those afflicted regularly use drugs despite its harmful consequences. 

Drug addiction is both a medical condition and a mental illness.

The term addiction is not an official diagnosis in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, a manual used to describe mental disorders.

The previously used terms of substance abuse and substance dependence have been replaced by the diagnosis of substance use disorder.

Substance use disorder is further classified into mild, moderate, and severe.


What is Drug addiction pdf
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Is Drug Addiction a Disease or Choice?

There is controversy about whether drug addiction is an actual disease or choice?

To clarify this, let’s look at Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary definition of disease:

1a condition of the living animal or plant body or of one of its parts that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms: SICKNESSMALADY


As we see, the origins of a condition do not factor into whether it is a disease or not.

People who suffer from drug addiction also demonstrate a common group of signs and symptoms, like:

  1. Lack of control related to their drug use
  2. Adverse social consequences
  3. Risky Behavior
  4. Signs of Drug Dependence and Withdrawal Symptoms

Additionally, there are several medical diseases that personal choices have contributed to the disease.

If we take a look at the #1 leading cause of death in the US, heart disease, there are several lifestyle choices that contribute to the disease.

There are certain choices that people may like smoking,  eating an unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity that increase the risk of heart disease.

What are the Causes of Drugs Addiction?

Several factors contribute to drug addiction. Some people begin using drugs through experimentation. There are individuals who use drugs to mask mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Others were prescribed opiates for medical conditions. There are also genetic components that contribute to drug addiction. 

Whatever the reason one starts using drugs, once they become addicted, they cannot function without using their drug of choice.

Signs of Drug Addiction

Signs of drugs addiction can depend on a number of factors ie the substances used, length of time, and frequency of use.

There may be physical and behavioral signs of drug addiction:

Physical Signs of Drug Addiction

  • Loss or increase in appetite
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • The smell of substance on breath or clothes
  • Nausea, vomiting, sweating, tremors of hands, feet or head
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Enlarged pupils or smaller than usual
  • Blank stares
  • Slurred speech

Behavioral Signs of Addiction

  • Change in attitude
  • Change in friends; new hangouts
  • Change in activities, hobbies or sports
  • Drop in school or work performance
  • Secretive behavior
  • Moodiness, irritability, nervousness, giddiness

Drug Addiction Statistics

Heroin overdose deaths are on the rise among all ages and ethnic groups.

In 2000, non-Hispanic black individuals aged 45-64 accounted for the highest rate of heroin overdose deaths. In 2013, however,  the rate was highest among non-Hispanic whites aged 18-44.

Tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs cost the Nation approximately $740 billion in health care cost, lost productivity, and crime.

Drug abuse has also affected newborns, with an increase in babies born in withdrawal medically termed neonatal abstinence syndrome(NAS) or neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS). Approximately every 15 minutes a baby is born suffering from opioid withdrawal.

Effects of Drugs on the Body

Drugs contain chemicals that reach the communication system of the brain. This alters the sending, receiving, and processing information from nerve cells.

The drugs cause interference by mimicking the natural chemical messengers in the brain.

Scientific research has shown that many drugs, such as heroin and opioids, have structures that are almost similar to the neurotransmitters produced in the brain.

This similarity  “fools” the brain receptors, activates the nerve cells and sends abnormal messages.

Drug addiction has a lasting effect on the body.

Sometimes you can even irreparably damage your body.

Prolonged use of medications means that they are stored in the fatty tissues of the body and continue to worsen the state of health long after ingestion.

That’s why it’s important to get help if you or your a loved one is addicted and should be checked in at a rehabilitation center.

Drugs Weaken The Immune System

Various drugs have different effects on the body, but they have many common characteristics.

The main effect of drug addiction is that it destroys the immune system.

The immune system is the part of the body that protects against diseases and prevents diseases.

Chronic drug users have weakened immune systems and are prone to frequent illnesses such as colds and infections.

Drugs Affect Nutrition

The drugs also decrease the metabolism and make you feel less hungry.

This is the reason why addicts are often underweight and weak.

Drug Use Affect the Digestive System

It affects the stomach and intestines and can cause constipation.

Drug Use Weakens Bones

Excessive use of medications also weakens bones and increases the chances of developing osteoporosis.

Drugs Effects on the Heart

Drugs that are stimulants have a different effect on the body than do depressant drugs.

Stimulants increase blood pressure and heart rate and even increase the risk of heart problems.

On the other hand, depressants lower blood pressure and heart rate.

Drugs Negatively Affect Major Organs

Drugs also have a negative effect on other major organs of the body. People who are addicted to drugs can have slow breathing and weak lungs.

They have difficulty breathing and certain drugs can result in a higher risk of developing lung cancer.

The liver can also be affected by drugs. Alcoholics have permanently damaged the liver because excessive consumption of alcohol destroys the liver. This makes it difficult for the body to release toxins.

The kidneys are another organ that suffers the effects of drug addiction.

Drug abuse also prevents the proper absorption of vitamins and minerals in the body.

Because of this, drug users have weak, thin hair and flimsy nails. They also have a poor skin tone, because the circulation of blood in their bodies is poor.

Many addicts also suffer from anemia and have low iron absorption.

Drugs and the Brain

Drug addiction also has a serious negative impact on the brain.

It causes loss of concentration and can also lead to depression or other mental disorders.

It can also affect vision and coordination.

How drug addiction affects Relationships

Drug addiction not only affects the individual but it negatively affects relationships.

Adults who abuse drugs develop social behaviors that affect their work performance and personal relationships.

Adolescents who abuse drugs often act out against their parents and perform poorly in school.

Parents that abuse drugs often contribute to a home environment that is stressful. Child abuse and neglect are also prevalent among parents who abuse drugs.

Why Some People Become Addicted and Others Do Not

Do you know that some people become addicted to drugs and others do not? The reason for this is that the risk of addiction depends on many factors, such as biology, age, social environment and stage of development.

How to Get Help for Drug Addiction

When you’re in the center of addiction, it can feel impossible to stop.

Fortunately, there are many ways to get help.

Addiction medication and behavioral therapy is the gold standard for drug addiction treatment.

Different types of drug addiction therapy

– Behavioral Treatments.

Behavioral therapy essentially helps patients to get involved in the entire treatment process.

Modifies the behavior and attitudes of patients associated with their medication abuse to increase their chances of having a healthier lifestyle.

These treatments can even improve the efficacy of medications that help people continue their treatment.

Therapeutic treatment of addiction has several behavioral approaches.

– Cognitive-behavioral therapy

This therapy is designed to help different patients to recognize, face and avoid situations in which there is a greater probability that they do not abuse drugs.

– Multidimensional family therapy

This therapy has been developed for adolescents with problems of drug addiction, and their families refer to a wide range of influences with patterns of drug abuse.

– Motivational interviews

This therapy capitalizes the preparation of each patient to change their unique behavior to finally go to treatment. This remedy uses positive reinforcers to help inspire abstinence from drug use.

– Residential Treatment

Residential treatment programs are also a very effective treatment. For example, therapeutic communities are more organized programs in which patients are at home. The patient usually stays in this therapy at home for 6 months to a year. If you want to achieve a transformed life and overcome this addiction, find the right treatment that best suits your current situation. Admitting a treatment that helps you is the only way to live a healthy and drug-free life.

Drug Addiction Help

If you know a drug user or are currently using drugs and want to stop, get professional help as soon as possible.

Below are several organizations that provide help for drug addiction.

drug addiction help

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