Drug abuse is quite common yet very misunderstood as well. People tend to blame it on the abuser’s apparent lack of moral values or will power. They accuse them of not wanting to stop, thus getting addicted on their own account. This is quite unfair as drug abuse disorder is a very complex disease where the drugs affect the brain in such a way that quitting becomes very hard. It is not just about good intentions because drugs contain chemicals which trick your brain into becoming dependent.
One type of drugs imitates neurotransmitters in the brain, thus activating nerve cells and sending abnormal messages. The second types of drugs cause the nerve cells to make neurotransmitters, such as dopamine. They also prevent these brain chemicals from being recycled, thus, the signals between the neurons are not turned off. As a result, dopamine stays in the regions of the brain that control emotion, movement, feelings of pleasure and motivation. When the reward system is over stimulated it programs the person to keep taking drugs in order to receive more reward.
So when a person keeps taking drugs the starts reducing the number of dopamine receptors in the reward system, hence reducing the impact of dopamine. This results in lessened pleasure for the abuser when he takes drugs. Unfortunately, it also prevents him from enjoying things that he usually liked in life, this is why he keeps taking the drug, to feel pleasure. But in order to achieve the same effect he needs to take larger amounts of the drug as the brain was used to the previous amount, this effect is called tolerance.
So while the initial decision of the person to consume drugs is completely voluntary, his decision to continue might not be. In addition to taking drugs to feel better, there is also a dire necessity to keep doing them. When the abuser decides to stop he will have to face withdrawal symptoms. These range from anxiety, nausea and shaking to depression and breathing problems. But there are times when these get much more serious, resulting in heart attacks, seizures, stroke, hallucinations and in extreme cases, even death. The withdrawal is so agonizing and traumatizing that the addicts relapse and turn to the drugs to function normally.
Drugs don’t only have a bad effect on the individual but also on the society. As drug abuse increases, the crime rate goes up and more people end up in the hospital from the negative effects of drugs as well as people who overdose. There is also an increase in loss of employment, failure in school, domestic violence, family degradation, and instances of child abuse. In total $600 billion spent in the USA annually due to the effects of substance abuse.
This may seem like a solution less problem but it isn’t. There are many rehab centers, well equipped with different facilities, doctors, and therapists to help ease out abusers from their addiction. There are also many 12 step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and sober homes to help people change their lifestyle.