“Addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the addicted individual and to those around them.”

Drug dealer selling pills marijuana and cocaine to teens
Drug dealer selling pills marijuana and cocaine to teens
Although the initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, the brain changes that occur over time challenge an addicted person’s self control and hamper his or her ability to resist intense impulses to take drugs.

Addiction is considered by the experts to be a disease. It causes long-term chemical changes to the person’s brain, so it is considered a brain disease. There is no known “cure”. It can be put and kept in remission by working an active program of recovery.

The four criteria to determine addiction:

1) Tolerance
2) Dependence
3) Craving
4) Lose of control

When someone takes any mind-altering substance like heroin, cocaine or marijuana, the chemicals alters their brain. These drug chemicals significantly alter the brain’s chemical messengers called neurotransmitters that trigger a chemical effect known as dopamine.

For a non-addictive type personality, this chain reaction of using drugs and getting the subsequent high, does not result in a compulsion. For an addict, however, this reaction sets in motion a reinforcing pattern that “teaches” the addict’s brain to repeat the rewarding behavior of using the substance over and over again.

As an addict continues to use, the brain adapts to the overwhelming surges in dopamine by producing less dopamine or by reducing the number of dopamine receptors in the reward circuit. The result is a lessening of dopamine’s impact on the reward circuit, which reduces the abuser’s ability to enjoy not only the drugs but also other events in life that previously brought pleasure. This decrease compels the addicted person to continue to use drugs in an attempt to bring the dopamine function back to normal, but now larger amounts of the drug are required to achieve the same dopamine effect. This phenomenon is known as “tolerance”.

Addiction has this mysterious effect on some drug abusers that tricks the addict into not seeing the consequences of their using behavior. This is known as “denial” and makes seeking treatment difficult.

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