How People Become Addicts
Addiction is a widespread problem and the truth is that those who suffer from the disease are not different from anyone else. They are normal.
Like everyone else, addicts attempt to ward off the psychological and emotional pain, take a wrong turn and now can't find a way back.
A lot of people think addicts lack willpower or self-control, and can simply find a way back by stopping the use of the substance, be it drugs or alcohol. While taking drugs is a choice at first, for the addicts, it no longer is.
Addiction rewires the brain. This change to the brain interferes with a person's self-control and robs them of their will-power to resist the craving for the substance.
The person’s body system becomes dependent on the substance for proper functioning. It can be dangerous if withdrawal is not monitored by qualified health professionals. That is why unmonitored withdrawal is not recommended.
A lot of people have successfully overcome the disease of addiction. Between 2011 and 2012, 30,000 people were successfully treated in England.
However, as with most chronic disease, there is a risk of relapse, and relapse should not be seen as a treatment failure. Former addicts remain at a higher risk of using drugs, and treatment must be tailored to take that into account. Like for every other chronic disease, treatment doesn't just end abruptly. Treatment plans are just modified and changed according to changing needs.
How Drugs Affect The Brain
The limbic system controls the "feel good" feeling. For example, when something wonderful happens to you such as success at work or when your team wins a game, you feel an intense sense of pleasure.
This feeling is important to human survival and hence humans seek more of what makes them feel good. The limbic system is controlled by dopamine, a neurotransmitter. Addictive substances flood the brain with dopamine. Because the brain is flooded, neurons start reducing the receptors that cause dopamine to act. Also, because some addictive substances are toxic, some of the neurons may die.
That leads to a poorer response to dopamine. To achieve the same intense pleasure as before, the user needs much more of the addictive substance. The individual become joyless without the drug. Also, to even attain the normal dopamine level of a normal individual, he/she needs a lot of the addictive substance. Despite the negative consequences, the addicted person is unable to control the urge to seek more of it.
Stigma Worsens The Issue
Over 3 million people in England use illegal drugs. While the majority of people are able to control their drug and alcohol use without becoming addicts, it’s impossible to predict how much a person uses before they become addicted. It varies widely and it's dependent on biological, environmental, and developmental factors.
Ultimately, dealing with hard choices and challenges in life can be difficult. In times of stress, people turn to work, sex, TV, exercise, and the Internet to turn off and ease distress. Most people sometimes use less-healthy ways to cope. And some may get stuck in the rot.
Stigma towards such people only worsens the situation and they start hiding in themselves, turning more and more to drugs, and feeling too worthless to seek help.
However, that is when they need help the most. A little empathy, support, and kindness can help them take steps to seek help, get back on their feet, and gain control of their lives.