Addiction: How Does it Happen?
For many, addiction is simply the result of bad choices and lack of willpower to turn someone’s life around. What they don’t see, and in fact, the addict also fails to see, is that there are several factors that cause addiction. It’s not something that’s just triggered once then happens again and again automatically. It’s multiple triggers, all happening constantly, which results in the development of a habit, a bad one.
What is the Definition of Drug Addiction?
In the dictionary, Addiction plainly means the state of which a person has succumbed to a habit or compulsion. Addiction had a much more casual meaning to everyone a long time ago. There are times when people are enamored by a certain activity or product that they choose to partake or participate in that again and again, forgoing the other things they used to do.
This can be a certain kind of food, activity, or even entertainment. You will see people addicted to the silliest things and in some cases, they become incredibly productive about it, like people addicted to food who start learning how to cook to make the perfect recipe. Addiction did not have much negative appeal until mind-altering drugs became accessible to people.
When it did, they added the definition of being in a state of heavy dependence on a drug; defined by physical and/or emotional dependence, such as pathological or compulsive drug use. The term dependence comes into play. With light addictions, you’ll probably have a bad day if you don’t get your dose, but it won’t hinder your life nor would you demand it. For addictions involving drugs or alcohol, you must have it, otherwise, you’ll experience migraines, stomach aches, pain, and anxiety.
Addiction today has physical, emotional, social, and economic ramifications. It’s not just a personal disease, it’s a sort of cancer that affects cities and countries alike.
Definition of Drug Abuse According to WHO
On a global scale, the World Health Organization (WHO) defines addiction as the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, (alcohol included) which can lead to dependence syndrome.
Dependence syndrome is a cluster of behavioral, cognitive, and physiological phenomena that develop after repeated substance use.
The keywords there are hazardous use and dependence. These words ultimately define the harmful disease of addiction. It doesn’t even have to be psychoactive drugs. One other common addiction is gambling. The thrill of winning the big jackpot and inflating your money places the person in a certain state of mind. Haphazard gambling impulses have caused so much damage to people, leaving them broke and in debt, often pushing them into desperation.
What more if it was alcohol and drugs? The effects are so vivid and easily achieved, that the brain defaults to using that instead of pursuing other tasks with too much effort for less reward.
How Can Drug Addiction Cause Ill Health?
Drug addiction affects both your health directly and indirectly. The changes addict undergo causes their brain to rewire itself, even if it;s well aware that its own habits are damaging it, if it keeps the flow of feel-good chemicals, or stops the flow of feel-bad chemicals, it will strive to seek it.
How it affects you directly:
Regardless of which drug you take, one particular organ takes the brunt of it; your liver. Aptly named because it keeps you alive. Your liver is responsible for releasing chemicals that either counteract or neutralize toxins in your body, and nearly all drugs are either toxins themselves, or create toxic byproducts after they are processed. When you take in drugs or alcohol, your liver goes to work. It can handle one or two doses no problem, but if you take it constantly, over a period of time, you can suffer liver damage and the results are often permanent.
Some drugs also have carcinogenic properties. They may not affect you if you take them once, but take them long enough and it can cause cell-mutation, leading to tumors or cancer.
There are many more effects to the body, such as effects on the heart and brain, ultimately leading to death if left untreated.
How it affects you indirectly:
Feeding an addiction costs time and money. Limiting these two can affect your lifestyle, potentially degrading your quality of life. There are exemptions, such as high-functioning addicts, but for the rest, their health degrades due to their minds preferring their substance over everything else.
It could be as small as missing one meal out of three a day. It could also be due to the lack of drive to exercise. In some cases, it’s the opposite, making you eat far more than you should, and empowering you to do things past exhaustion. The combined stresses and compromises to your lifestyle can leave you malnourished and vulnerable to diseases, with the only way to make you feel better is the drug.
One other thing to be considered is the danger you put yourself into. There are cases where getting your supply will lead you to shady places. Driving while under the influence is a crime punishable by law, but you also risk causing accidents that can harm you.
The continuous cycle of feel-bad and feel-good is what truly undermine someone’s health. What makes it worse is that the degradation is unseen, quietly chipping you away until you realize that it’s too late.
What are the Neurotransmitters involved in Drug Addiction?
Our brain commands everything in our body through our nerves using a messaging language in the form of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are what tells your heart to beat, your stomach to digest, what causes you to feel good, feel bad, and nearly everything your body does. The brain controls the levels of neurotransmitters present in the body in an endless balancing act. When the balance of these chemicals tips, the body experiences immediate effects.
Drugs are psychoactive because they either mimic neurotransmitters or stimulate the brain into making more of them. Too much of a certain transmitter will cause intense feelings of bliss, such as the orgasmic effects of ecstasy. It has, however, severe repercussions. The brain will sense the imbalance and attempt to correct it, often causing nerves to stop accepting the transmitter, or stop making more. These lead to the lack of feel-good chemicals afterward, causing a deep, dark depression that can often impose suicidal thoughts.
Here are the common neurotransmitters affected by drugs and their effects to the brain.
The reward chemical. This is the transmitter that tells that you did a good thing. If you feel joy out of doing something that won’t cause direct happiness, like a painfully hard massage from an attractive masseuse, that’s dopamine at work.
Drugs that affect Dopamine: Cocaine and Methamphetamine mainly. Yet all known drugs stimulate the production of this transmitter indirectly.
The desire chemical. This one controls your libido, essentially controlling your drive to do something. It mainly affects your arousal levels, but arousal doesn’t always relate to sex. If you find yourself particularly turned on by quadratic equations and complex polynomials, that’s serotonin telling you so.
Drugs that affect Serotonin: Ecstasy and LSD mainly. Cocaine affects it indirectly.
The motivation chemical. This chemical is responsible for keeping you active and inactive. It controls your sleep, affects mood and too much can cause anxiety. It also controls the speed of sensory processes. The sensory explosion due to thrill is the direct cause of this chemical. It’s also responsible for making you drowsy when someone’s talking about the history of linoleum.
Drugs that affect Norepinephrine: Cocaine and Methamphetamine mainly, but alcohol also affects this somewhat indirectly.
Anandamide aka Endogenous cannabinoids
The perception chemical. It controls your view of the world both in the physical and mental sense. A flood of these often causes “out-of-body” experiences, also known as hypersensitivity. This chemical works in concert with the rest of the transmitters to give you a sense of “reality and existence.” Your sudden bursts of existential thoughts can partly be blamed by an imbalance of this chemical, making it the philosopher’s transmitter.
Drugs that affect Anandamide: Marijuana mainly. All other drugs can affect this drug indirectly.
How Does Drug Addiction Happen? What Are the Symptoms?
There are three main drivers that cause addiction, then there’s one physiological reason why it gets worse. There’s no single reason why people fall into addiction, but there are patterns common to all of them.
Stressors and Triggers
They can take a lot of forms, from irate spouses, high-stress job environments, pain, sense of weakness, or trauma. In essence, stressors are events and conditions a person wants to avoid, while triggers are what reminds them of what they need to avoid. How a person acts differs vastly, but one of them is finding an escape through drugs, to get that high that puts them away from the woes of the world.
A Source of Supplies
No supply, no drugs, no abuse. Simple as that. Addiction to drugs only happens if people can obtain them. This is why alcohol abuse is common because all you need is to be old enough and have cash, or a good tab.
Promoters and Enablers
Even with enough stressors and accessible supplies, a person may choose not to partake anymore unless someone pushes them to it. It can be anyone, even strangers. Worse than promoters are those who cover up, or take responsibility for the addict, called enablers. They dampen the ramifications of the addiction, making it convenient to continue the addiction.
Then there’s the one physical factor that furthers the addiction: Tolerance.
Tolerance is the body’s way of adapting to potentially harmful factors, allowing it to survive constant exposure. This causes the effects of drugs to diminish, requiring more of it to make the person feel the same level of sensation. The vicious and dark cycle of constant problems pushing the person to drugs, with ramping tolerance, eats the person’s life and livelihood away.