Addiction is not just overuse of a drug. It is not that the user just chooses to use the drug too much. Addiction is not a free choice. A user is one who chooses to inject, snort or smoke the drug or even mix it with their food or drink or however they choose to get the drug into their system.
Addiction implies a functional movement into a different state. This state is one where drug use is compulsive. Drug use in this state, ceases to be one of morality, will or choice. Addicts also see negative consequences that are suffered by people who are abusing drugs. However, for abusers of drugs, they may stop using when the consequences turn out to be too severe and life-threatening. An addict on the other hand may find that they unable to cease the use even when negative effects occur.
Stopping the use of harmful drugs for a person who is addicted may need medical assistance or behavioral assistance. A simple illustration is drinking at a social event: for the many people in the party, drinking alcohol may look ordinary, but for an addict that behavior and the thoughts and effects of the drinking are so much more different than the person next to them taking the same alcoholic drink. The addict will drink compulsively and may binge drink because of the grip they are under.
You don’t use a drug the first time and get addicted to it. The first use may be ‘positive’ making the person start abusing it. The addiction sets in when the use gets chronic. The brain becomes changed by that chronic use. That is when the line is crossed leading to addiction.
The function and structure of the brain is affected by alcohol, heroin, cocaine and nicotine and other addictive drugs. Some scientists have claimed that the brain’s ‘circuits’ are altered and ‘usurped’ by drugs. The part of a person’s brain that controls emotions impairs the will of the addict. The nerve cells and the way they communicate is affected and an out-of-control and compulsive use is developed, even when one knows that only harm can result from taking the drug. Studies using advanced technology have shown that shapes of brain cells and structure of synapses actually change when drugs such as opiates are used in high doses and for a prolonged time. Even the brain functioning of a cocaine addict and one who is using it is different. Drug users may be using it for medical purposes, like opioids such as morphine that are prescribed for pain.
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