The Science of Drug Addiction

Millions of people across the world use illegal drugs every day. In Texas, the average drug use rate for adults age 18-64 is 8 percent. While many people will use drugs for recreational enjoyment, many illegal substances can carry a severe risk of addiction. The following guide explains how different classes of drugs can trigger addiction.

While it’s possible for an individual to have willpower, it may not be possible to fight addiction on one’s own. Many drugs can cause physiological changes in the human body. These changes can result in physical dependence, severe withdrawal symptoms, a damaged reward-system in the brain, and more. Most illegal drugs fall into one of four categories: sedatives, stimulants, hallucinogens, and opiates.

Sedatives include drugs like Xanax, alcohol, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, anesthetics, and more. Sedatives can cause severe physical and mental addiction. Most sedatives work by modulating the action of the neurotransmitter GABA. The GABA neurotransmitter is used by the human body to determine sleep cycles, stimulation level, muscle tone, and other physiological processes.

Sedatives create a strong sense of calmness and relaxation in a drug user. They are often taken to prevent insomnia, lower anxiety, and reduce stress. One of the main disadvantages of sedative use is reduced efficacy over time. Long term use of a sedative will requiring increasingly large doses to achieve the same effect. Quitting many sedatives cold-turkey can result in rebound anxiety, tremors, seizures, and in some cases, death. Withdrawal from a sedative should always be managed by a heath care professional.

Stimulants include drugs like methamphetamine, pharmaceutical amphetamine, Ritalin, cocaine, mephedrone, MDMA, and many others. Stimulants create a sense of euphoria and excitement in a user. Some stimulants like amphetamine and methylphenidate are used by doctors to treat ADHD symptoms. Illegal stimulant use can be found in many different populations.

Stimulants are often abused by recreational drug users, students, people who go clubbing, and individuals in a rural environment. Most stimulants work by stimulating the release of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters help the body control mood, energy levels, and the reward-system of the brain. While most stimulants don’t cause a physical addiction in users, they can create a debilitating mental addiction. Some stimulants like methamphetamine can cause dopaminergic damage in the brain — users who have abused stimulants often can not experience pleasure without the drug.

Opiates include pharmaceutical painkillers like hydrocodone, fentanyl, heroin, and opium. Opiates can cause a severe physical and mental addiction. Many opiates have significant side effects during withdrawal. Some side-effects of opiate withdrawal include flu-like symptoms, gastrointestinal difficulties, depression, loss of energy, suicidal tendencies, and weight gain. Some opiates like heroin and oxycodone may be injected into the body using dirty needles. This can result in hepatitis, HIV infection, and gangrene.

Hallucinogens aren’t physically or mentally addictive. However, they can cause severe reactions in some people. Hallucinogens can trigger self-harm, psychotic behavior, and high levels of anxiety.

Drug addiction can be difficult to treat on one’s own. Always contact a health care professional during any treatment regime.

For more information, go to Treatment Centers