How Does Drug Addiction Happen?

Unless you’ve experienced it yourself, it’s difficult to understand how addiction to drugs or alcohol can happen.  Many people promote the misconception that all an addict or alcoholic needs to do is stop drinking or using drugs.  However, it’s never this simple and even the strongest people with incredible reserves of will power have been unable to stop using even when their lives were crumbling around them.  Drug addiction can and does happen to anyone from any walk of life.  The first part of helping to get someone you love treatment for addiction is to create an environment of understanding.

People use drugs or drink for many different reasons.  Some might be self-medicating feelings of insecurity, social anxiety, stress, or even physical pain.  Others might use recreationally or as a result of peer pressure from friends or family.  Whatever the reasons may be, anyone who uses any drug can easily become addicted under the right (or wrong) circumstances.  This is because addiction is both a physical and mental disease that occurs from one thing only: repeated drug use or drinking.

The first stage in drug addiction is tolerance.  As a substance is introduced consistently into the body, the central nervous system will make changes in order to mitigate the effects of the drug.  This develops a tolerance where the user needs more of the drug to achieve the same effect, i.e. to get high.  This tolerance only exacerbates the problem because now more of the drug is being put into the system.

Tolerance invariably leads to physical dependence.  Physical dependence occurs after a substance has been in the body consistently for so long that the changes made by the CNS become semi-permanent.  This means that body then only operates normally when the drug is in the system.  When the drug is suddenly reduced or withheld from the body, the central nervous system must make drastic changes in order to adapt.  This is known as Withdrawal Syndrome or Detox, and in some cases stopping using a drug or alcohol can actually be fatal.  For this reason, detox should always occur in a medically equipped facility once a person has progressed past tolerance to physical dependence and addiction.

True addiction features physical dependence coupled with a full set of physical, emotional and mental problems and conditions that can be extremely debilitating.  In general, once physical dependence has set in, true addiction is differentiated by the appearance of three behaviors;

  1. Control loss.  People who are addicted show a loss of control over their drug use or drinking
  2. Obsession.  Addicts obsess, think, plan and talk about drugs and using drugs constantly
  3. Continuation despite consequences.  Even with the loss of loved ones, careers, financial difficulty and trouble with the law, an addict will often continue using despite these severe consequences.

No matter what the situation is or how addiction came to be, there is help available for anyone who needs it.  Drug rehab centers and alcohol recovery programs are dedicated to providing a secure environment where people can get help and take back control of their lives again.  In order to learn how you can help yourself or someone you care about who has a drug addiction or alcoholism problem, all you need to do is make one confidential phone call right now.

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