Drug Addiction is a Brain Disease
Prolonged drug use causes changes in brain chemistry which results in addiction and the subsequent behavioural changes.
Drug addiction is a complex disease that affects many areas of life and needs to receive professional and comprehensive treatment in several areas, including biological, social, and behavioural – to be effective.
The danger of drug addiction is that the physical changes which occur in the brain can lead to dramatic behavioural shifts. People can become more aggressive, lose interest in life, and suffer from memory loss. All of these will result in them struggling to lead a normal life.
When coupled with the absolute craving that drug addicted people have – the lengths that they will go to in order to obtain and use their drug – it is clear that this is a very dangerous illness.
Neuroscience has advanced rapidly as technological developments have allowed scientists greater insights into the function of the brain. One might argue that the work of Luria, a Russian psychiatrist, was one of the early seminal works in this field. By studying the location of head wounds suffered by Russian soldiers and comparing the location to the deficit in behaviour he was able to start drawing conclusions about the notion that specific areas of the brain are associated with specific behaviours.
Of course we now know that more complex behaviours are the result of a symphony of areas working together. Drug addiction interferes with and damages the brain’s ability to function as it should.
If you’ve ever been close to someone who’s suffered from a drug addiction you’ll know their loved ones desperately and often ask them ‘why’ they continue to use drugs despite the obvious negative results to themselves (physically, mentally, emotionally, financially) and their families. Medical science has proven brain changes that once addicted to drugs result in a craving for more drugs similar to the sense of starvation – this may offer some explanation.
Research into drug addiction has found very definite differences in the brains of addicted and non-addicted people. They’ve identified the systems upon which drugs of abuse operate. They’ve actually got a very good understanding of the way that drugs affect the brain, but sadly this has yet to be translated into either a treatment method or into public health policies.
Perhaps one problem that medical research into drug addiction is facing is that many addictions counsellors are themselves addicts who were treated with a particular methodology. They may therefore hold a very biased opinion about how addiction should be treated and resist adopting the findings of current medical research.
Another problem is that there is still some level of stigma attached to a person suffering from drug addiction. The idea that this is an illness has not yet fully pervaded the public consciousness. This means that society may still judge an addict as a “bad”, “weak” or “immoral” person rather than seeing them as somebody suffering from a chronic disease, much like diabetes, hypertension or asthma.
Drug addiction is characterized by a number of symptoms. One of which is compulsive drug use or drug seeking. Other symptoms may include be the presence of withdrawal symptoms, depending on the drug that one is addicted to.
Often some measure of “danger” is assigned to a substance depending on how dramatic the physical withdrawal symptoms are. In reality, all substances that lead to drug addiction have a high potential to lead a person to ruin and so it is not productive to compare levels of danger based solely on their physical addictiveness. Crack cocaine and methamphetamine are good examples of this. They are both highly addictive but will not result in much physical discomfort or withdrawal symptoms when discontinued.
One of the more accepted theories about how drug addiction creates changes in the brain focuses on the mesolimbic system. This is not so much a part of the brain as it is a pathway between several areas. Each substance will of course have its own effect on the brain, but generally speaking this system is effected by drugs. This system has been associated with understanding why drug addicts continue using drugs.
Understanding drug addiction as a disease with roots in brain chemistry is essential when providing a comprehensive treatment program. This is why a top drug addiction rehab will have expert medical staff on hand.
If you want to find a drug rehab that offers the very best in modern treatment methods please contact We Do Recover for confidential and independent advice.
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