Think about how you feel when something good happens—maybe your team wins a game, or you’re praised for something you’ve done well—that’s your limbic system at work. Because natural pleasures in our lives are necessary for survival, the limbic system creates an appetite that drives you to seek out those things. Sadly, this can lead people to become reliant on these feelings, achieving them by any means necessary. Clearbrook’s drug rehab in Pennsylvania answers the question, “How do people get addicted to drugs?”
Why Are Drugs Addictive?
Drugs are addictive because they disrupt the brain’s regular operations, particularly the reward system, leading to changes in the brain chemistry of addiction. The first time someone uses a drug of abuse, he or she experiences unnaturally intense feelings of pleasure. The reward circuitry is activated—with dopamine carrying the message. Of course, drugs have other effects, too. For example, a first-time smoker also may cough and feel nauseated from toxic chemicals in a tobacco or marijuana cigarette.
But the brain starts changing as a result of the unnatural flood of neurotransmitters. Because they sense more than enough dopamine, neurons may begin to reduce the number of dopamine receptors or simply make less dopamine. The result is less dopamine signaling in the brain, or what scientists call “down-regulation.” Because some drugs are toxic, some neurons may also die.
As a result, dopamine’s ability to activate circuits to cause pleasure is severely weakened. The person feels flat, lifeless, and depressed. In fact, without drugs, life may seem joyless. Now the person needs drugs just to bring dopamine levels up to normal. Larger amounts of the drug are needed to create a dopamine flood, or “high”—an effect known as “tolerance.” These brain changes drive a person to seek out and use drugs compulsively, despite negative consequences such as stealing, losing friends, family problems, or other physical or mental problems brought on by drug abuse. This is addiction.
Although we know what happens to the brain when someone becomes addicted, we can’t predict how many times a person must use a drug before becoming addicted. A person’s genetic makeup, the genes that make each of us who we are, and the environment each play a role. What we do know is that a person who uses drugs risks becoming addicted, craving the drug despite its potentially devastating consequences.
The Dangers of Drug Abuse
Drug addiction can have a variety of risks and negative impacts on a person’s physical, mental health, and social life. These effects can be short-term or long-term. The risks and negative side effects of drug abuse include the following:
- Physical impacts: Depending on the drug and the method of usage, drug misuse can have a variety of physical repercussions. For instance, injecting drugs increases the chance of contracting hepatitis C and HIV. Other physical consequences of drug misuse can include organ damage, seizures, cardiac issues, and breathing issues.
- Mental effects: Abusing drugs can have a negative impact on a person’s mental health, resulting in irritability, anxiety, depression, and psychosis. Chronic drug use can alter the structure and operation of the brain, resulting in addiction and reduced cognitive ability.
- Social effects: Substance addiction can have a negative impact on a person’s relationships, career, and general quality of life. It may result in monetary difficulties, legal troubles, and social isolation.
- Overdose: Drug misuse can result in overdoses, which can have lethal consequences. When a person consumes too much of a drug, or when different drugs combine with one another or with alcohol or other substances, an overdose can happen.
- Withdrawal: When someone quits using drugs, they may experience withdrawal symptoms, which include nausea, sweating, trembling, and seizures.
Life-Changing Addiction Treatment in Pennsylvania
After answering the question, “How do people get addicted to drugs?” it may come as a surprise that there are still countless individuals who either remain unaware of the dangers of abusing a substance or simply do not care about the risks. For those who find themselves falling into such a hole, there are resources and helping hands waiting to help pull you back out.
Clearbrook Treatment Centers understand that facing a drug addiction can be difficult and long-term. Since 1972, the renowned Clearbrook Treatment Centers have been providing effective treatment programs for individuals who suffer from alcoholism and/or chemical dependency. Clearbrook’s rehabilitation program is based upon the belief that alcoholism and chemical dependency are primary diseases and that the suffering addict and his or her family members deserve immediate help.
Patients at our Pennsylvania rehab will also have access to drug and alcohol detox programs which ensure that all withdrawal symptoms a person experiences are addressed in a safe and medically monitored environment.
There is so much more to life than the challenges of drug abuse and addiction. Let Clearbrook help you recognize this for yourself. Call us at 570-536-9621 to learn more about our programs.