Drug addiction is a physical problem that can’t be recovered from by determination or ‘trying’ harder. It usually requires going to drug rehab for the best results, especially if counselling for other problems is also undertaken. Taking drugs has a physical effect on the brain that is part of why addiction happens.
When drugs are taken the brain is flooded with the chemical dopamine, known as one of the ‘feel-good’ chemicals. This is the same effect that happens when we indulge is pleasurable activities like eating and spending time with our loved ones. Only with drugs, the amount of dopamine released is far greater. Basically, the brain is overstimulated.
What happens next is because of this over stimulation the brain tends to make less dopamine and it also lessens the ability of cells in the reward circuit to respond to it. So the person who is taking the drugs becomes more tolerant of them and must take more to get the same amount of ‘high’ they got in the first place. But that’s not all.
When other things that once made them feel good are done again, the result is much less of the feel-good effect than usual. Thus, eating, spending time with loved ones and so on don’t make the person feel good like they used to. Because they don’t get the same feelings of pleasure, they turn to drugs even more in order to have that feeling.
There are other things that happen to the brain when taking drugs. This affects the behaviour of the person and their ability to lead a fulfilling life.
- The brain has difficulty in learning
- Memory often fails
- Judgement is often faulty
- Decision making can be difficult and faulty
- The person feels stressed
- Their behaviour changes – often they get really angry for no reason
Can an addict really be cured?
Many diseases are incurable, but can be managed in a way that minimises their impact on the sufferer. Similarly, drug addiction can’t really be cured, but it can be managed so that the person can have a good life. This is the same as alcohol addiction. An alcoholic never actually recovers; they just learn to cope with the addiction. They may feel the urge to drink alcohol many years after not having touched a drop of it.
Drug addiction should be treated by experienced professionals who know exactly how to help the addict get off drugs as well as how to cope with problems in their life that may have been causing them to take drugs in the first place. Once they learn these coping behaviours it is far less likely that they will return to taking drugs again. And if they do, they can still be helped to come off them again.