Many people become addicted to drugs, and it is hard to understand why that happens.
It is not true that those who abuse drugs just "lack willpower" or moral principles. Drug addiction is a complex disease that changes the brain, so quitting is difficult, even for those who want to do so.
What Is Drug Addiction?
Addiction is a chronic brain disease that causes people to seek and use drugs, even though there are harmful effects. People may have risk factors that lead to a greater chance of addiction, such as:
- Biology – The genes people are born with, combined with their environment, account for about half of their addiction risk. Gender, ethnicity and the presence of other mental disorders may influence risk for drug abuse and addiction.
- Environment – A person’s environment includes family and friends, socioeconomic status and quality of life. Factors like peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, stress and quality of parenting can influence the occurrence of drug abuse and addiction.
- Development – Genetic and environmental factors interact in a person’s life to affect addiction vulnerability. Although a person could become addicted to drugs at any age, the earlier that drug use begins, the more likely it will progress to more serious abuse. Adolescents may be more at risk because the parts of the brain that control decision making, judgment and self-control are still developing.
The Cost of Addiction
The total cost of substance abuse in the United States, including productivity, health and crime, is more than $600 billion each year. While that dollar figure is staggering, it does not include other costs of drug use and addiction, such as harm to families, job loss, difficulty in school, domestic violence, and child abuse.
Effects of Addiction on Health
Drug use and addiction can have a serious impact on your health. Cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and lung disease can all be affected by drug abuse. Some of these effects occur when drugs are used at high doses or after prolonged use; however, some may occur after just one use. Learn more about specific medical consequences of drug use.
Similar to other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, drug addiction can be managed successfully. Research shows that combining addiction treatment medications with behavioral therapy is the best way to ensure success for most patients.
It is not uncommon for a person to relapse and begin abusing drugs again. This is not a sign of treatment failure. It means that treatment may need to be restarted or adjusted, or that an alternative treatment is needed to help the individual regain control and recover.