The Psychology Behind Drug Addiction

What Is Drug Addiction?


Addiction is characterized by continually seeking for legal or illegal drugs even though they know the consequences of it to one’s health. People take these drugs voluntarily, and they do it repeatedly. Their brain and also their self-control gets affected by it, which then makes it difficult to resist or avoid the intake of the drugs.


“The person is using the behavior to cope with anxiety or emotional pain that is outside their window of tolerance of emotions.” — Robyn E. Brickel, M.A., LMFT


How Do Addictions Affect The Brain?


The way the brain is designed, it sees pleasure no matter the cause. For example, the hormones released when a reward is received and when taking drugs, it is all the same. Therefore, when one uses drugs, their dopamine levels increase and the brain sees it as “pleasure” or something rewarding. The neurotransmitters remember pleasure, and this motivates the body to repeat the action that has caused it. This learned behavior when continuously done eventually turns into an addiction.


The Risk Factors Of An Addict


There is no way to know if someone will become addicted to drugs as drug addiction is complex and complicated. Multiple factors also cause it. These various factors also increase the risks of having an addiction.


The genes of a person can serve as a risk factor, but only half of it has that effect. Other factors can also be gender, ethnicity, and of course, associated with mental health problems.


The environment can also be a factor – home, school, workplace, and the people around it. An example is how growing up without proper guidance, and immediate exposure to drugs can lead a young person to get addicted.


Addiction is a process; it does not happen overnight. Most people do not become addicted by choice, nor do they even think they will become addicted to drugs or alcohol.” Tarra Bates-Duford, Ph.D., MFT


Why Do People Use Drugs?


Most of the time, a person’s drug addiction starts because of uncontrolled and strong emotions like rage, fear, and jealousy. Addicts rely on the drugs to control these emotions which is a form of escape from the realities of life. Using drugs at the beginning is something that they choose to do, but it can be life-threatening when they can’t control their abusive state on using the drugs.


What Are The Different Types Of Addictive Behaviors?


Addiction can be used in a physical and psychological sense. Physically, addiction is when the drugs make the body adapt to it, and thus tolerance or a trigger may ensue.


Psychologically, drugs can be used as a coping mechanism to stress. The addiction isn’t based on the brain, so this is the reason why some people would switch from one drug to another. In treating this, looking at the stressor instead of the drug is the key.


How Do We Treat Addiction?


The psychological symptoms can be treated but not being able to deal with them shouldn’t be blamed on the addict. To completely treat one’s drug addiction, you have to get to the cause and also treat its psychology, as this would only make the person turn to other things that he can be addicted to again.


Medication can help in treating the addiction but there are areas wherein medicine isn’t enough. Therefore the best way to treat addiction is by doing both behavioral therapy or counseling and supervised medication. The treatment differs from patient to patient since no person has the same problem. It should be customized to fit the person.


Drug or even alcohol addiction is a psychological issue. Just taking away the drug won’t solve it. You have to dig deeper and break this mental problem for it to end ultimately.


“…if substance abuse started before the addict was an independent, self-sustaining adult, then new skills need to be learned. It’s said that maturity stops when addiction begins.” — Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT

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