Author: Alex Thompson

The Science of Drug Use: A Resource for the Justice Sector National Institute on Drug Abuse NIDA

Why Do People Use Drugs

It’s always better to deal with boredom by mingling with friends or getting a new hobby. Many people dealing with physical, mental, or emotional challenges would rather self-medicate rather than seek professional help. This decision is often unwise as it puts them at risk of drug abuse. Painkillers such as opioids carry a strong addiction potential even though they may provide temporary pain relief.

  1. Studies show that those who are high in the trait of neuroticism—they are prone to experiencing negative emotions—are overwhelmed by minor frustrations and interpret ordinary situations as stressful.
  2. A person dealing with trauma may turn to drugs to get past unwanted memories.
  3. They are not made at the level of a long-term lifestyle consideration.

Excessive drinking and substance use on college campuses does not have to be the norm—an examination of collegiate recovery communities can help inform how to rebrand college. What starts out as a partial solution often becomes part of the problem and can even make chronic pain worse. Seth brings many years of professional experience working the front lines of addiction in both the government and privatized sectors. Outpatient treatment intensity depends on the specific needs of the patient. Usually, the patient lives at home and regularly visits an outpatient clinic for counseling and other forms of therapy. Outpatient treatment may also involve staying in a sober living facility until the addict can live independently.

With prolonged use, the user starts to feel like they cannot function normally without the drug and become addicted. A person dealing with trauma may turn to drugs to get past unwanted memories. However, the relief from drugs is always short-lived, and the individual may have to keep using the substance to keep the memories away. Continued drug use in this manner will inevitably lead to abuse and addiction.

Research shows that combining addiction treatment medicines with behavioral therapy ensures the best chance of success for most patients. Treatment approaches tailored to each patient’s drug use patterns and any co-occurring medical, mental, and social problems can lead to continued recovery. The sooner you seek help, the greater your chances for a long-term recovery. Talk with your health care provider or see a mental health provider, such as a doctor who specializes in addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry, or a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. Some people may be more prone to addiction because they feel less pleasure through natural routes, such as from work, friendships, and romance.

Synthetic cannabinoids, also called K2 or Spice, are sprayed on dried herbs and then smoked, but can be prepared as an herbal tea. Despite manufacturer claims, these are chemical compounds rather than “natural” or harmless products. These drugs can produce a “high” similar to marijuana and have become a popular but dangerous alternative. Two groups of synthetic drugs — synthetic cannabinoids and substituted or synthetic cathinones — are illegal in most states. The effects of these drugs can be dangerous and unpredictable, as there is no quality control and some ingredients may not be known.

Opioid painkillers

An intervention presents a loved one with a structured opportunity to make changes before things get even worse and can motivate someone to seek or accept help. Stimulants include amphetamines, meth (methamphetamine), cocaine, methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, others) and amphetamine-dextroamphetamine (Adderall XR, Mydayis). They’re often used and misused in search of a “high,” or to boost energy, to improve performance at work or school, or to lose weight or control appetite. Barbiturates, benzodiazepines and hypnotics are prescription central nervous system depressants.

In general, the more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance that taking drugs will lead to drug use and addiction. Risk and protective factors may be either environmental or biological. Triggers in addiction could be places, feelings, persons, activities, and anything that makes a drug user crave their drug of choice and puts them in an emotional state that enabled the drug use in the first place. Drug abuse changes how the brain works and triggers can take a drug user or recovering addict back to the time when the substance use brought those feelings of pleasure. When they first use a drug, people may perceive what seem to be positive effects. Some people may start to feel the need to take more of a drug or take it more often, even in the early stages of their drug use.

To a very large degree, brain hacks become appealing when there are restricted opportunities for meaning and for pleasure other than the response to drugs. Just as recovery from addiction requires focusing on rewarding activities other than drug use, so does prevention. Peers play an enormous role in addiction susceptibility, especially among teens and young adults; most people use drugs for the first time as teenagers. Misuse of prescription drugs, for example, is highest among young adults aged 18 to 25, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug among adolescents in the United States.

With continued use, individuals may need larger doses of the drug to get the same feelings. Soon, the individual finds they cannot function normally without the drug – a state known as dependence. At this point, drug use can begin to have severe adverse effects on the person’s health, finances, career, family, and relationships.

What environmental factors increase the risk of addiction?

However, willpower has a role in recovery from drug use, as it means you have taken responsibility for your recovery and also helps you to stay engaged. Drugs provide intense feel-good effects that are incomparable to any other thing. Many people hear about these euphoric effects and also want to feel that “high.” The euphoric sensations are why people continue to abuse drugs even with their potential for addiction and other adverse consequences.

Why Do People Use Drugs

Addicts commonly lack enough positive human contacts to sustain happiness, and they resort to drug intake partly as self-medication (Panksepp, 2012). That is why we sometimes turn to ice cream or other fatty foods when we are sitting at home feeling alone in the world. Problems with self-regulation specifically attributed to loneliness have manifested in alcohol abuse, drug abuse, eating disorders, and even suicide.

Why do some people become addicted to drugs, while others do not?

These include impulsiveness, frustration tolerance, and sensitivity to rejection. Impulsivity is thought to play its strongest role in the early stages of addiction, driving the motivation for seeking drugs. Some studies show that genes can account for as much as 50 percent of a person’s risk for addiction, although the degree of genetic influence shifts in importance over time. For example, environmental factors such as family and social relationships are more strongly tied to use of alcohol and nicotine in adolescence than later in life. Nevertheless, there is no single gene for addiction nor even a group of genes. Most drugs affect the brain’s “reward circuit,” causing euphoria as well as flooding it with the chemical messenger dopamine.

Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction

However, with the right resources, treatment approach, and a solid support structure, it is possible to break free from drug addiction completely. Going off drugs for a while can make it easier to remain drug-free. Staying off drugs can cause withdrawal symptoms that may be mild to life-threatening.

These programs take advantage of the social reinforcement provided by peer discussion that helps encourage drug-free living. Inpatient treatment is an intensive form of drug addiction treatment that requires living at a treatment facility while receiving treatment, including therapy, support, and constant monitoring by a team of professionals. This low feeling makes the user crave more of the drug, and they will gradually need more doses to get the same feel-good effects (tolerance).