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

But if thiamine deficiency is left untreated, neurological damage can become irreversible, and people experience a form of dementia. It is marked by hallucinations and other signs of psychosis, difficulties with memory, and confabulation, attempts to make up stories to cover gaps in memory. It is estimated that 80 percent of long-term heavy drinkers suffer from some degree of thiamine deficiency.

Results from NIDA-funded research have shown that prevention programs involving families, schools, communities, and the media are effective for preventing or reducing drug use and addiction. Although personal events and cultural factors affect drug use trends, when young people view drug use as harmful, they tend to decrease their drug taking. Therefore, education and outreach are key in helping people understand the possible risks of drug use. Teachers, parents, and health care providers have crucial roles in educating young people and preventing drug use and addiction. Most drugs affect the brain’s “reward circuit,” causing euphoria as well as flooding it with the chemical messenger dopamine.

Substance Use Disorder Categories

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. About 20% of people in the U.S. who have depression or an anxiety disorder also have a substance use disorder. People can use substances occasionally without developing SUD, but even a few episodes of taking certain substances can lead to tolerance and dependence. Tobacco, heroin, cocaine, alcohol, cannabis and benzodiazepines are all substances that you can develop tolerance and dependence to.

drug addiction

The cause of a drug overdose is either by accidental overuse or by intentional misuse. Accidental overdoses result from either a young child or an adult with impaired mental abilities swallowing a medication left within their grasp. An adult (especially seniors or people what is drug addiction taking many medications) can mistakenly ingest the incorrect medication or take the wrong dose of a medication. Purposeful overdoses are for a desired effect, either to get high or to harm oneself. They occur when a person takes more than the medically recommended dose.

Symptoms

Help from your health care provider, family, friends, support groups or an organized treatment program can help you overcome your drug addiction and stay drug-free. Many people don’t understand why or how other people become addicted to drugs. They may mistakenly think that those who use drugs lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop their drug use simply by choosing to. In reality, drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will. Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to. Fortunately, researchers know more than ever about how drugs affect the brain and have found treatments that can help people recover from drug addiction and lead productive lives.

In other cases, people start abusing medication not prescribed for them in order to experience a high, relieve tension, increase alertness, or improve concentration. People often try drugs for the first time in social situations with friends and acquaintances. A strong desire to fit in to the group can make it feel like doing the drugs with them is the only option. There’s a fine line between regular drug use and drug abuse and addiction. Very few drug abusers or addicts are able to recognize when they’ve crossed that line. While frequency or the amount of drugs consumed do not necessarily constitute drug abuse or addiction, they can often be indicators of drug-related problems.

Substance Use Disorder (SUD)

It may be that a person consumes more drinks than usual in one sitting. Or a person might start consuming alcohol before a social event, or even early in the day. People developing problem use might look for socially acceptable reasons to have a drink, or they might start concealing their alcohol consumption from others around them. There are both physical and behavioral clues that someone might be experiencing a problem with substance use.

People with drug addictions continue to use drugs compulsively, despite the negative effects. Each person responds differently, and reactions are hard to predict. Many people who are directed to go to the emergency department may not have any physical signs of poisoning.

Dependence specifically refers to the effects of the process of neural adaptation to a psychoactive substance. It is a common feature of addiction, but not the totality of the more complex disorder. Seek treatment for any mental health problems simultaneously. As you seek help for drug addiction, it’s also important to get treatment for any other medical or psychological issues you’re experiencing. Your best chance of recovery is by getting combined mental health and addiction treatment from the same treatment provider or team. Medication can be an effective part of a larger treatment plan for people who have nicotine use disorder, alcohol use disorder, or opioid use disorder.

  • For treatment to be successful, you’ll first need to resolve your underlying issues.
  • Different types of substance use disorders can have a wide range of symptoms.
  • Many people start taking these drugs to cope with a specific medical problem—taking painkillers following injury or surgery, for example.
  • Independent of the addictive process, problems can also develop from the taking of any chemical substance.
  • Substances — such as alcohol, stimulants and opioids — affect your brain, including your decision-making ability.

However, any activity or habit that becomes all-consuming and negatively impacts your daily functioning can cause significant mental, social and physical health issues, as well as financial issues in some cases. For spouses and family members of those with substance use disorder, it may be vital that you get involved in a support group (such as Al-Anon) and seek help from a mental health professional as well. Of course, drug use—either illegal or prescription—doesn’t automatically lead to abuse.

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. A cardinal sign of addiction is not being unable to control consumption of alcohol/drug—even when wanting to. In addition, addiction is typically marked by urges or craving—wanting a substance so badly it becomes difficult to think about anything else. If your previous social life revolved around drugs, you may need to make some new connections. It’s important to have sober friends who will support your recovery.

  • An addiction is a chronic dysfunction of the brain system that involves reward, motivation, and memory.
  • You can go through detoxification in both inpatient and outpatient settings.
  • Withdrawal from different categories of drugs — such as depressants, stimulants or opioids — produces different side effects and requires different approaches.
  • Short-term medical use of opioid painkillers can help to manage severe pain after an accident or surgery, for example.
  • Drug addiction is a treatable, chronic medical disease that involves complex interactions between a person’s environment, brain circuits, genetics, and life experiences.
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