Nobody chooses to become an addict, so just why does drug addiction occur? This is something that a lot of people wonder about, especially when one considers that not every person who uses drugs will go on to become addicted. If addiction is something that you are worried about, you might be pondering how you ended up at this point in your life.
You probably thought for a while that you could use drugs recreationally; and for a time, this may have been what you were doing. You probably thought that you could continue to use drugs when you went out at the weekend without any problems. Nonetheless, here you are, with a physical dependence that is threatening to destroy your life. So how did this happen?
How Did You Develop a Drug Addiction?
It is important to point out when discussing why does drug addiction occur that drug addiction does not necessarily mean an addiction to illegal drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, or heroin. The reality is that many people suffering drug addiction may never have touched an illegal substance in their lives. However, they were given strong pain medication or sedative drugs by their doctor for a genuine medical condition. Does this sound familiar to you?
Maybe you believed that you would take this medication for a short period until your medical condition was better and that you would just stop. But here you are feeling as though you cannot manage without these pills and desperately pleading with your doctor to continue prescribing them. Or maybe your prescription has stopped and you have found yourself sourcing these pills online or, worse, looking for alternatives on the streets.
If all this sounds similar to the situation you have found yourself in, it is very likely that you have developed a physical addiction to the substance you are using. In short, you need help to get better.
For most, drug addiction begins with experimentation. The first time a chemical substance is taken, the individual has a choice. After that first time, the person again will have the choice of whether to use or to stop. Continued use of a substance begins to reduce the individual’s ability to continue making a choice.
After a while, he or she will develop an increased tolerance to the drug, and before long, their body will crave it. The affected individual will feel compelled to use it and will have little or no choice over how much or when to stop. It is at this point that a physical dependence has occurred. When the person continues to use the substance despite knowing that to do so will cause negative consequences in their life, he or she is said to have an addiction.
How Addiction Affects the Brain
Addiction is not something that affects everyone who abuses drugs – there are some people who have a genetic tendency to become drug addicts. There are also other factors that make it more likely for addiction to occur, including the environment in which a person grows up, whether the person has experienced trauma, how old the person was the first time he or she tried drugs, or whether he or she has any mental health problems. Having the risk factors above does not definitely mean that addiction will occur, but there is more chance that it will happen.
Scientists have found that repeated use of drugs can change the structure of the brain and how it functions. As the person continues to abuse drugs, his or her brain will adapt to the point where he/she will find it increasingly difficult to make good decisions. Their ability to exert self-control will also be weakened. This is why addiction is now known as an illness of the brain. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a consequence of bad behaviour or a lack of willpower.
Nevertheless, the good news is that the reverse can happen during recovery. So, as the brain structure changes during addiction, similar changes can occur when the person is in recovery. It will take time, but you need to remember that you did not become an addict overnight, so expecting to recover overnight is unrealistic.
The Consequences of Addiction
There is no way that someone can continue to abuse drugs over an extended period without some damage being done to the brain and the body. Even if it takes time for that damage to appear, you can be certain that your body is already being affected.
There are some individuals who manage to display an outward appearance of everything being fine. Because of this, others do not realise that he or she is secretly dependent on a specific substance. These affected individuals are commonly referred to as high-functioning addicts. As they do not show any physical signs or symptoms, and because they are still managing to hold down a job and provide for their families, others might not realise that anything is wrong. The addicted person may even be able to convince him/herself that there is no problem.
He or she is sure that if there were an addiction, they would be in a different position. This is because this individual probably has his or her own idea of what addiction is. Since they are still working or because they have never passed out after taking drugs, the person does not believe that he or she could possibly be classed as an addict. The affected individual is unaware that if he or she carries on in this vein, they will soon be at a stage of being in danger of losing everything.
There are a number of short-term effects of substance abuse, but these depend on the type of drug being used. Nonetheless, long-term abuse of drugs can cause many different issues and many of these will go unnoticed for a time. Drug abuse can affect the brain, nervous system, reproductive system and have an impact on various other bodily functions.
Blood pressure and heart rate may be increased, which can raise the risk of strokes and heart disease. Mental health problems that include chronic depression, paranoia, psychosis, schizophrenia, and dementia have all been linked to substance abuse as well.
While health is the most obvious consequence of drug addiction, it is not the only one. In fact, this is an illness that can contribute to relationship struggles, unemployment, poverty, crime, and homelessness.
Relationships with friends, family members, and co-workers tend to suffer when one person finds him/herself addicted to drugs. Try as they may to put on a front, their behaviour will inevitably tell a different story, particularly around those closest to them. Family members are usually the first to notice when something is not quite right. They will spot the subtle changes in behaviour that the addict is exhibiting; as time goes by, they will eventually put two and two together.
As the behaviour of their loved one becomes more unpredictable, relationships will start to change. In some instances, the personality of the addict will alter to the point where loved ones and friends feel that they no longer recognise this person. Sometimes, relationships are damaged to such an extent that they are beyond repair.
The finances of the addict and the people closest to them will also be affected. The longer an addiction goes untreated, the more drugs the person will require. As the illness progresses and the individual’s tolerance increases, he or she will need even more of the substance to get the desired effects. As you can imagine, this means the affected individual will have to be able to access cash to pay for the drugs.
With their ability to function properly severely hampered by their drug use, and their income requirement increasing, the addicted person may find him/herself in a situation where they are forced to take desperate measures to get their hands on the substance they crave.
Can You Beat a Drug Addiction?
A drug addiction will continue to get worse if it is not treated. Those who refuse to do anything to rectify their situation will find themselves slipping into a downward spiral that can be extremely difficult to get out of.
However, even those with a severe addiction can overcome it if they have a real desire to change and a willingness to commit to a programme of recovery. It will not be easy, but with the right help and support, it can be done.
A detoxification is the first step on the road to recovery. It is necessary to break the physical bond between the addict and the substance to which he or she is addicted, and this must take place with a drug detoxification. The way in which detox affects the individual will depend on several circumstances. Not every detox will be the same, and it is impossible to tell how it will pan out.
A drug detox can be complicated, depending on the type of substance that was being abused and how long the person was suffering with addiction. Other factors can also play a role, including the health of the individual and his or her age. Those with chronic conditions or a history of seizures may be more likely to suffer complications during the process than someone with no history of medical problems.
Based on what we mentioned above, a detox should be carried out under careful supervision, whether at home or in a dedicated facility. Most would benefit from detoxing in a dedicated supervised detox facility because this is generally accepted as the safest and most comfortable place to complete this type of process. Staff can ease symptoms with medication where appropriate and, in many cases, nutritional supplements can be provided to head off the worst symptoms.
You should be aware that most people will experience withdrawal symptoms as the drugs and the remaining toxins leave the body. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and include:
- mood swings
- raised temperature
- high blood pressure,
- rapid pulse
As previously stated, it is impossible to tell which symptoms a person will experience before the detox begins. This is the main reason most experts agree that detoxing in a supervised facility is the best choice for most drug addicts. A supervised facility means patients will be carefully monitored by fully trained medical staff with experience of detox. These professionals will be able to spot the signs of complications quickly and are trained to handle them efficiently.
Why Rehab is Required to Overcome Addiction
Many addicts think that once they get through a detox, they will be cured and ready to face the world. Nevertheless, what they fail to realise is that there is no cure for addiction – not yet anyway. The reality is that drug detoxification is only designed to deal with the physical aspect of the illness. Addiction is made up of more than one element, mainly the physical and the psychological. Both must be addressed to ensure a full recovery.
Addressing the physical and ignoring the psychological will mean a very shaky recovery and one that would be vulnerable to a relapse. You must remember that there may be a deep-rooted cause of your addictive behaviour and you must deal with this to minimise the risk of a relapse in the future.
Failure to do this means that the reasons you became addicted in the first place will still be there, waiting to resurface at any given time. With a fully comprehensive rehabilitation programme, you will learn the cause of your addictive behaviour and will learn how to deal with these issues should they arise again. You will be taught a variety of skills and techniques that will help you to avoid a relapse going forward.
For a full recovery that will give you a greater chance of long-term sobriety, it is essential that you combine a detox with a rehabilitation and then follow it up with an aftercare programme. The first twelve months after rehab are the most dangerous for recovering addicts in terms of relapse. It is at this point that cravings are likely to occur periodically; but at this point the affected person is still learning to cope with a substance-free life. Aftercare programmes provide essential support during this vulnerable period.
If you would like more information on the question of why does drug addiction occur, or if you would like further details about how and where to overcome your addiction, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us here at Addiction Helper today. We are a free referral service working with many organisations across the UK. We can put you in touch with a suitable provider where you will get the treatment you need to overcome your addiction once and for all.