Author: Alex Thompson

Drug Abuse & Addiction: Effects on Brain, Risk Factors, Signs

what is drug addiction

The drugs that may be addictive target your brain’s reward system. You can also get addicted to prescription or illegally obtained narcotic pain medications, or opioids. In 2018, opioids played a role in two-thirds of all drug overdose deaths. Drug addiction isn’t about just heroin, cocaine, or other illegal drugs. You can get addicted to alcohol, nicotine, sleep and anti-anxiety medications, and other legal substances. As people with SUD often have co-occurring mental health conditions, treating them together rather than separately is generally better.

what is drug addiction

While naloxone has been on the market for years, a nasal spray (Narcan, Kloxxado) and an injectable form are now available, though they can be very expensive. Whatever the method of delivery, seek immediate medical care after using naloxone. But just because addiction runs in the family does not necessarily mean a person will develop one. People struggling with addiction usually deny they have a problem and hesitate to seek treatment.

Medicine as part of treatment

They may order drug tests and evaluate prescription drug monitoring program reports. When you spend time with a loved one or eat a delicious meal, your body releases a chemical called dopamine, which makes you feel pleasure. It becomes a cycle; you seek out these experiences because they reward you with good feelings.

  1. Treatments will focus on helping you or the person you know stop seeking and engaging in their addiction.
  2. Charity Action on Addiction, 1 in 3 people in the world have an addiction of some kind.
  3. Substance use disorder (SUD) is a mental health condition in which a person has a problematic pattern of substance use that causes distress and/or impairs their life.
  4. The initial decision to take drugs is typically voluntary.
  5. Substances such as alcohol, marijuana and nicotine also are considered drugs.

About half of people who experience a mental health condition will also experience a substance use disorder and vice versa. In 2020, 17 million U.S. adults had a co-occurring mental health disorder and SUD. Substances send massive surges of dopamine through your brain, too.

What is substance use disorder?

If you’re currently taking a prescription drug and are concerned you may be developing a dependence, talk to your healthcare provider immediately. SUDs and other mental health conditions are caused by overlapping factors such as genetic vulnerabilities, issues with similar areas of your brain and environmental influences. With physical dependence, your body has adapted to the presence of the substance, and withdrawal symptoms happen if you suddenly stop taking the drug or you take a reduced dosage. It involves continued substance use despite negative consequences. Addiction to substances happens when the reward system in your brain “takes over” and amplifies compulsive substance-seeking.

Examples include methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also called MDMA, ecstasy or molly, and gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, known as GHB. Other examples include ketamine and flunitrazepam or Rohypnol — a brand used outside the U.S. — also called roofie. These drugs are not all in the same category, but they share some similar effects and dangers, including long-term harmful effects.

what is drug addiction

Although there’s no cure for drug addiction, treatment options can help you overcome an addiction and stay drug-free. Your treatment depends on the drug used and any related medical or mental health disorders you may have. It may help to get an independent perspective from someone you trust and who knows you well. You can start by discussing your substance use with your primary care provider. Or ask for a referral to a specialist in drug addiction, such as a licensed alcohol and drug counselor, or a psychiatrist or psychologist. You can also visit your primary care doctor for an evaluation.

The relapse or recurrence of use process begins weeks or months before a person actually takes the substance. Early intervention increases the chances of returning to sobriety. About 85% of adults living with substance use disorder will relapse within a year of quitting their substance use.

Substance use disorder affects people of all ages, races, genders and socioeconomic levels. Substance use/misuse refers to occasional episodes of substance use rather than chronic, habitual or patterned use. Explore Mayo Clinic studies testing new treatments, interventions and tests as a means to prevent, detect, treat or manage this condition. Substance use disorder can negatively affect a person’s relationships, finances, employment, and other aspects of their life. You can book an appointment with a primary care doctor in your area using our Healthline FindCare tool.

Who’s Most Likely to Become Addicted?

The frontal lobe allows a person to delay feelings of reward or gratification. In addiction, the frontal lobe malfunctions and gratification is immediate. Substances send massive surges of dopamine through your brain, too, as well as certain activities, like having sex or spending money. Healthcare providers and the medical community now call substance addiction substance use disorder.

Children younger than age 5 (especially age 6 months to 3 years) tend to place everything they find into their mouth. Drug overdoses in this age group are generally caused when someone accidentally leaves a medication within the child’s reach. Toddlers, when they find medications, often share them with other children.

How does substance use disorder develop?

For a teenager, moving, family divorce or changing schools can increase their risk. Healthcare providers may recommend cognitive and behavioral therapies alone or in combination with medications. Treatment for SUD often requires continuing care to be effective, as SUD is a chronic condition with the potential for both recovery and relapse. Effective treatments are available for substance use disorder.

Treatment is highly individualized — one person may need different types of treatment at different times. Studies show that genetic factors are responsible for 40% to 60% of the vulnerability to any substance use disorder. If you have a first-degree relative (biological sibling or parent) with SUD, you’re more likely to develop it. Seeking medical care as soon as you have signs of substance use disorder is essential. Substance use disorder can significantly impact your health, relationships and overall quality of life. It’s crucial to seek help as soon as you develop signs of SUD.