In our society, addiction carries with it a negative stigma, and many of us who have never personally dealt with addiction mistakenly believe that addicts are weak, have no morals, and simply lack the willpower to stop using, when, in fact, recovering from an addiction disorder takes much more than good intentions or a strong will. For more information about addiction recovery, or to find a substance abuse treatment facility near you, call (877) 411-7376 today to speak with an experienced drug or alcohol abuse counselor.

What is an Addiction?

Addiction is a term used to describe a compulsive physical and psychological dependence on a substance, such as alcohol or drugs, despite harmful consequences, to the point that the substance takes over the individual’s life. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people begin taking drugs for a variety of reasons, including to feel good, to relieve stress, to improve performance, to fit in, or simply to satisfy a curiosity. Whatever the reason for their substance use, the effects of continued abuse are the same, and many people suffering from addiction are aware of their problem but are unable to put a stop to it, even if they wanted to. As a result, they may experience such adverse effects as distorted thinking, behavior and body functions possibly resulting in serious illness or even premature death.

How Addiction Affects the Brain

More than just affecting the way you behave when actively using, drug and alcohol abuse can, over time, actually damage the brain’s “reward circuit” by flooding it with the chemical messenger dopamine, thereby changing the way your brain works and making it more difficult to resist urges to use. The reward circuit of the brain controls the body’s ability to feel pleasure and encourages behaviors needed to thrive, and overstimulation of this “pleasure center” causes an intense high that keeps users coming back for more. As the brain adjusts to the excess dopamine by producing less of it, or by reducing the ability of cells to respond to it, the high you experience when taking drugs is reduced compared to when you first start using – an effect known as tolerance. This is typically what causes an addict to take more and more of the drug, in an effort to achieve the same high as before, and can also cause them to derive less pleasure from other things they once enjoyed, such as spending time with loved ones and participating in sports or social activities.

Addiction Signs and Symptoms

Addiction manifests itself in different ways, depending on the person and the type of drug used. Some possible short and long-term signs of drug addiction include:

  • Increased alertness
  • Problems at school or work
  • Changes in behavior
  • Neglected appearance
  • Lack of energy or motivation
  • A sudden disinterest in once-enjoyed activities
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Rapid or rambling speech
  • Irritability or changes in mood
  • Engaging in risky activities
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Extreme anxiety or agitation
  • Elevated mood
  • Paranoia

Get Help for Your Addiction Disorder

Once a person begins abusing drugs, stopping can be incredibly difficult, and despite being aware of the harmful side effects of addiction, many people who use drugs continue taking them. That is the destructive nature of addiction. The good news is that drug use and addiction are preventable, and with the right resources, parents, educators and healthcare providers can reduce the risk of drug addiction in teens and young adults. For those who have already fallen into the grips of addiction, there are professional treatment programs throughout the United States that cater to the individual recovery needs of addicts and their families. If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction disorder, call (877) 411-7376 to find out how you can get the help you need.