Drug addiction is a long-term condition of compulsive drug seeking that is not stopped by negative consequences. Addictions, in general, are compulsions to use and abuse things to an excessive and destructive extent. This need to use and misuse substances can be very powerful and can be life-threatening. It often extends to not only harm the user, but family and friends as well.
Commonly abused drugs include:
Over time, your body adapts to the drug. It no longer releases the chemicals that provide the “high” feeling (euphoria). This is called tolerance. When this happens, you will need more and more of the drug to feel the same high that was experienced the first time. As more of the drug is consumed, you may enjoy other aspects of life less. Social, family, and work obligations may also fall to the side. The need for the drug to recapture that original high can become all-consuming.
Anyone can become addicted to drugs. Some people may be more prone to use drugs based on family history (genetic predisposition), social factors, their gender, or ethnicity.
Addiction causes changes to the brain over time. It is actually considered a brain disease because of the way the drugs can impact the brain over a long period of time. Continued use of drugs can shift the way the brain works and the structure of the organ. Even though the first use of a drug is by choice, addiction creates a need for the drug after continued use. The ability to make decisions, like stopping drug use, can be decreased because of the impact of the drug on the brain.
The symptoms of drug addiction include:
Drug addiction is diagnosed in several steps, including:
Unfortunately, many people who suffer from drug misuse don’t go through these steps to seek treatment.
Drug addiction can be treated through detoxification (the process of the drug leaving the body), behavioral therapies and drug-assisted therapies. In many cases a combination of therapies is used. Behavioral therapy is used to help change attitudes about drug misuse and advocate a healthy lifestyle.
Medications can be given to help with withdrawal and other symptoms of addiction during treatment. The method of treatment is not one-size-fits-all. There are different options for different types of addiction. A few drug-assisted treatment options include:
In-patient and out-patient therapies are also available treatment options. These often involve group therapies and can occur weekly (out-patient) or for as long as 6-12 months (in-patient).
No. Similar to other long-lasting diseases, addiction cannot be cured in the traditional sense. It can be managed and treated. The risk of falling back into an addiction may be present for the rest of the person’s life.
Drug addiction is preventable. Educational programs in schools, communities and on the family level can help prevent the first usage of a substance. Not taking illegal drugs and following the instructions for prescription medications can also prevent addiction.
After extended misuse of drugs, the structure and functions of the brain can change. This is considered a brain disease. A few ways the brain changes include how it:
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 10/12/2017