Why Does Drug Addiction Occur?

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Drug Addiction

20 February, 2018

There is a terrible tendency in modern media to equate the use of drugs with moral failure, as though addicts simply enjoy their addiction and lack willpower or moral fiber to break free of it. The reality is far more complicated than that. Many addicts do wish to stop using, sincerely, but cannot seem to manage the last step. It is better to think of addiction as a disease affecting the brain and treat it as such.

What changes are made in the brain by drugs?

The reason so many drug addictions are hard to kick is that the brain literally gets altered while on the drugs for long periods of time. The whole reason behind this effect of drugs on the brain is that they bind to certain receptors present on the brain and other nervous tissues [depending on the drug class] and bring about their ‘pleasurable’ effects. This affects the way nerve cells receive and interpret the signals running through them. There are two different drug actions that can occur; firstly, the drug can imitate the natural chemical messengers in the brain and secondly, the drug can ‘hack’ the reward centres of the brain.

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers of the body, that allow the organs to communicate with each other. Some drugs, such as weed, cause abnormal messages to be sent due to their ability of mimicking these neurotransmitters.

Other drugs, like meth, cause overreaction in the brain chemistry and the mass release of neurotransmitters. These then stimulate the release of ‘feel good’ chemicals like dopamine. The body learns to associate this feeling with the drug and repetitive use teaches the body to experience that high only when the drug is present in its system. The brain doesn’t understand where the ‘reward’ comes from – it could be a gift, monetary reward, exercise, or the drug.

However, it does not continue like this. The body eventually adjusts to these effects and becomes unable to produce the same level of high until a larger dose is used. Eventually, the body gains tolerance to the drug after which addictive behaviour escalates over time. This is where the true vicious cycle of drug abuse begins.

This cycle is affected by the speed of dopamine consumption, the intensity of release and predictability of the result.

Who can become a drug addict?

The true and short answer is ‘anyone’. There is no specific gene or situation that creates addiction. However, some users are more susceptible than the others. Environment, biology, and development, all play a significant role in this matter.

The tendency of becoming an addict can be inherited as well. The relatives of an addict are more likely to become addicts themselves. Nevertheless, environmental factors are also critical. No matter the family tie to addiction, one is far less likely to become an addict if he decides never to pick up an addictive circumstance and is not exposed to normalizing behaviours around addictive substances and respective peers.

Do I need help with my drug issues?

The good news is that help is available and it’s never too early or too late to partake these services to assist you. If you suspect that you or anyone you know is struggling with drug abuse problems, it is the right time to reach out. See below for some suggestions as to who you can approach for help with the issues you are having.

While individual drugs present with different signs and symptoms of overuse, some of them are common to all drug addictions. These include altered behaviour, social withdrawal, lack of interests in activities that previously engaged you, constantly thinking about the substance of abuse, constantly craving for the substance and making ways to get them.

Where can I get help?

Help for drug addiction issues can be taken from a variety of sources. Addiction Rehab Centres are available 24/7 for your assistance. There are also many hotlines available to call for help. Addiction Rehab Centres are specialized in treating different substances of abuse, too. We also offer confidential call-in services.

Help for addiction issues are at hand and you needn’t suffer alone. Call Addiction Rehab Centres today- don’t feel that you are alone in this journey.


Bevilacqua, L and Goldman, D. Genes and Addiction. PubMed Central. 27 July 2009. Accessed 05 February 2017. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2715956/

Summary | Dispelling the Myths About AddictionNASEM. Accessed 05 February 2017. https://www.nap.edu/read/5802/chapter/2

DrugFacts: Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction. Drugabuse.gov. Revised November 2012. Accessed 05 February 2017.

Understanding addiction. Helpguide.org. Accessed 05 February 2017. http://www.helpguide.org/harvard/how-addiction-hijacks-the-brain.htm

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