Human beings, since they first appeared on the planet, have been experimenting with consciousness-altering and pleasure-inducing drugs. The stresses and strains of modern living appear to have contributed to the problem of drug addiction for a proportion of today’s recreational drug users.
Drug addiction appears to be fuelled by the dual processes of growing chemical dependency on a substance and the search to repeat the pleasurable experience it induces. Typically, the chemical dependency is caused by biochemical changes in the user’s brain, which in many instances lead to an increased tolerance for the drug of choice. Choice, perhaps, becomes a progressively less straightforward term: the increased tolerance means that bigger doses are required in order to achieve the sought after effects, with the result that the drug acquires an importance in the user’s life unmatched by other simpler pleasures.
Personality and behavioural changes often occur during drug addiction, as users become more and more preoccupied with obtaining their next “hit” of the drug. Many people, it should be said, do not become addicted, but a proportion does, especially when using drugs known to rapidly induce a chemical dependency, such as heroin.
It is notoriously difficult to self-treat a drug addiction, and most who reach the point of serious dependency require carefully devised drug addiction treatment programmes. These drug addiction treatment programmes may be residential or community-based and usually begin with a period of detoxification to achieve a drug-free state. Subsequently, users then progress onto treatments that encourage the maintenance of drug-free living and the management of contingencies, such as stress, unforeseen setbacks, and boredom.