Some people are able to use prescription and recreational drugs without becoming addicted. However, for others, substance use causes problems at home, in school and at work. It ruins relationships and leaves users feeling helpless, isolated and ashamed.

If you have a friend or family member who is currently suffering from drug addiction, it is important for you to understand how drug addiction develops, know what it looks like and understand why it has such a powerful hold on many individuals. A better understanding of the problem allows you to deal with it in the best way possible.

Understanding Addiction

The NYU Langone Medical Center defines drug addiction as the “continued misuse of drugs even when faced with drug-related job, legal, health, or family difficulties.” Drug abuse is often associated with its consequences, and not the amount or frequency of drug use. This means that no matter how much little you think you are consuming, it can be considered drug abuse when it causes problems in your life. Many people drastically underestimate the quantity of drugs they take, which impacts their life and their level of control over drug use.

People try drugs for many different reasons—out of curiosity; because friends are doing it; to have a good time; to improve athletic performance; or to deal with depression, anxiety or stress. Although substance use does not always mean abuse, it often leads to that as drug use becomes casual. The progression varies depending on the individual.

Now, why do some people get addicted while others don’t?

According to a 2008 study entitled Neurobiological Causes of Addiction, “Neurobiology and molecular genetics are contributing heavily to a new understanding of the causes of chemical dependence”. As with any other conditions, addiction varies from person to person. Some factors that increase an individual’s risk include genes, family, mental health and social environment.

How Addiction Affects the Brain

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the chemical structure in drugs acts like neurotransmitters or brain chemicals. They are recognized by the brain, and then alter its normal functioning. The said chemical structure in drugs works like anandamide, which is associated to different brain functioning including mood, memory, pain and appetite.

Nearly all drugs used for chemical addiction increase dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a brain chemical that is associated with motivation, movement and reward. When you are pleased with what you eat or stimulated sexually, dopamine levels increase. This “feeling of pleasure” is what makes drugs addicting. Once you try it, the brain remembers this pleasurable feeling and wants it repeated.

Once an individual is addicted, the change in the brain interferes with an individual’s ability to think clearly, exercise good judgment and control behavior. Depending on the individual, the urge will become too strong that the mind finds ways to rationalize or deny the addiction.

Development of Addiction

According to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health, some children start drug abuse at the age of 12 or 13, while some begin earlier.

Many people find it difficult to understand how individuals become addicted to drugs. Some people assume that drug abusers lack willpower and moral principles that make it difficult for them to change their behavior. However, it helps to understand the root of drug abuse and addiction.

Some people begin experimenting on drugs and end up getting addicted. The reason? The chemicals either make them feel good or take away all negative feelings. More often than not, there is a very fine line between drug use and drug addiction, and many people fail to recognize when they have already crossed that line. While we have previously stated that quantity and frequency of drug addiction does not always mean addiction, they can still pose drug-related problems.

Occasional drug use can easily lead to drug addiction. As you use it, it gradually increases over time. You may start smoking with friends over the weekend or taking ecstasy during a party, but occasional drug use may become more and more important to you and before you know it, you’re hooked.

Drug use will start fulfilling a valuable need. Drug users will find themselves increasingly relying on it. They take drugs to calm themselves when feeling stressed or anxious, or to energize their body when feeling depressed about certain situations. For some people, drugs make those who are normally shy feel more confident. They can also help people relieve pain and cope with panic attacks.

Once drug use has taken hold of an individual, he or she will start being late for work or school, and performance will progressively deteriorate. A drug addict will start to neglect social and family obligations. What begins as an occasional habit will then progress into a psychological need.

Drug Addiction Can be Treated and Prevented

Drug abuse and addictions are preventable. Education and outreach are some of the keys in helping the general public understand the dangers of drug abuse. Prevention approaches include simple lifestyle changes, stress reduction techniques and increased physical activity.

According to the University of Utah Health Sciences, some of the most effective treatments for drug addiction include detoxification, maintenance and medication. Other treatments include counseling, support groups and therapies. These are often helpful in preventing relapse. Therapies involve:

1. Talking openly about past experiences.
2. Managing problems and issues without relying on drugs.
3. Identifying and using the correct thinking patterns.
4. Recognizing the harmful effects of drug abuse.
5. Establishing motivation for continuous change.
6. Effective time management.
7. Development of refusal skills.
8. Cultivating personal relationships.

Therapies are effectively done in rehabilitation centers and sober living homes. It makes it easier for addicted people to live a sober life. The National Institute on Drug abuse recommends drug dependents to live in a sober home for at least 90 days.

If you have loved ones suffering from drug addiction that you would like to help, call Casa Nuevo Vida Sober Living Homes today at 888.390.6229 so we can help you conquer addiction for good.