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Drug Addiction

Why do people use alcohol and other drugs? Basically, people use substances such as alcohol and other drugs because they like the way these substances make them feel. Pleasure is a powerful force. Your brain is wired in such a way that if you do something that gives you pleasure you will probably want to do it again. All drugs that are addicting can activate and affect the brain's pleasure circuit.

What is addiction?

Addiction is a disease that affects your brain and your behavior. When you become addicted to alcohol or other drugs, your brain actually changes in certain ways. Someone who is addicted uses drugs without thinking of the consequences, such as problems with health, money, relationships and performance at work or at school.

What drugs can cause addiction?

People can become addicted to illegal drugs and to drugs that doctors prescribe. People can also become addicted to things they may not think of as drugs, such as alcohol and the nicotine in cigarettes or smokeless tobacco.

Are prescription drugs safe?

When prescription drugs are taken the right way, there is much less chance that you will become addicted to them. But prescription drugs can be dangerous if they are abused (for example, taking too much, taking them when they're not needed or mixing drugs).

How do I know if I have a problem?

You have a problem with drugs or alcohol if you continue to use them even when they cause problems with your health, money, work or school, or with your relationships. You may have a problem if you have developed a tolerance to drugs or alcohol. This means you need to use more and more to get the same effect.

Can addiction be treated?

Yes, but addiction is a chronic (going on for a long time) problem. It may take a number of attempts before you can remain free of drugs or alcohol.

What treatments are available?

Treatment can include counseling, medication or both. Your doctor will help you find the treatment that is right for you.

How can I quit abusing drugs or alcohol?

The first step in breaking addiction is to understand that you can take control of what you do. You can't control all the things that happen in your life or most of what other people do, but you do have control over how you react. So use that control. The following are the next steps to breaking your addiction:

  • Commit to quitting. Once you decide to quit, make a plan to be sure that you really do it.
  • Get help from your doctor. Your doctor can give you support and help you find a treatment program that meets your needs. Your doctor can also treat withdrawal symptoms and other problems that you may have as you recover from your addiction.
  • Get support. Ask your family and friends for support. You can also contact one of the organizations listed in the column on the right. These groups can give you the tools and support you need to break your addiction and move on with your life.

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