Commonly Asked Questions about Addiction and Treatment
How do addictive drugs influence behavior?
Addictive drugs influence behavior by interacting with the brain's reward system. This system is responsible for driving pleasurable feelings and motivating behaviors essential to human survival, such as eating and socializing. Addictive substances can hijack this system, leading to changes in behavior and brain function.
Here's a simplified explanation of how this works:
Alteration of Neurotransmitter Activity: Addictive substances often increase the levels of certain neurotransmitters, chemicals that transmit signals between nerve cells in the brain. One key neurotransmitter affected by many drugs is dopamine, which is closely associated with feelings of pleasure and reward.
Overstimulation of the Reward System: By increasing dopamine levels, addictive drugs overstimulate the reward system, often creating a sense of euphoria. This intense pleasure can lead individuals to repeat the drug use to recapture this feeling.
Development of Tolerance and Dependence: Over time, the brain adapts to the increased dopamine levels by producing less dopamine or reducing the number of receptors that can receive signals. As a result, the drug's effects are lessened, a phenomenon known as tolerance. This can lead users to take increasingly larger doses of the drug to achieve the same dopamine high. This cycle can lead to dependence, where the brain relies on the drug to function normally.
Withdrawal and Cravings: When the drug is not taken, withdrawal symptoms can occur as the brain attempts to rebalance itself. These can include negative emotions like anxiety and depression, physical symptoms like nausea or restlessness, and intense cravings for the drug.
Compulsive Drug-seeking Behavior: As the cycle of tolerance, dependence, withdrawal, and cravings continues, individuals may engage in compulsive drug-seeking behavior, even when faced with negative health, social, or legal consequences. This is a key characteristic of addiction.
Impairment in Decision-making and Self-control: Long-term drug use can also cause changes to other areas of the brain that impair decision-making, self-control, judgment, learning, and memory, further fueling the cycle of addiction.
What to do if someone has a fentanyl overdose?
Fentanyl overdose is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate action. Here are the steps you should take:
- Recognize the Signs: Common signs of a fentanyl overdose include slow or irregular breathing, drowsiness or unresponsiveness, constricted or pinpoint pupils, and cold and clammy skin.
- Call Emergency Services: Dial your country's emergency number (911 in the U.S) immediately. Explain the situation clearly and provide any known information about the person's drug use.
- Administer Naloxone if Available: Naloxone is a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. If you have access to this medication, administer it according to the instructions, usually a spray in the nostril or an injection under the skin or into the muscle.
- Perform Rescue Breathing or CPR: If the person isn't breathing or has shallow breathing, start doing chest compressions and rescue breathing if you're trained to do so.
- Stay Until Help Arrives: Do not leave the person alone. Stay with them and try to keep them awake and responsive if possible.
- Provide Information: When emergency responders arrive, provide them with as much information as possible about the situation, including the person's age, weight, the drug they took, when they took it, and any underlying health conditions they might have.
What are the effects of drug addiction?
Physical health: Chronic drug use can lead to various health complications, including damage to the liver, kidneys, heart, and lungs. It can also weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections and diseases. Furthermore, the method of drug consumption, such as injecting, can increase the risk of blood-borne diseases like HIV and hepatitis.
Mental health: Drug addiction can exacerbate or cause mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and psychosis. Prolonged drug use can also lead to cognitive impairments, affecting memory, attention, and decision-making abilities.
Personal relationships: Addiction often strains relationships with family and friends, leading to social isolation and a breakdown of support networks. Trust issues, conflict, and emotional distress can arise as a result of drug-seeking behaviors and the impact of addiction on the individual's life.
Financial consequences: Drug addiction can result in financial instability due to the costs associated with obtaining drugs and the potential loss of employment or income. This can lead to poverty, homelessness, or further dependence on social support systems.
Legal issues: Drug use and addiction can lead to criminal activity, both directly (through possession or distribution of illegal substances) and indirectly (through actions taken to acquire drugs or money to buy drugs). This can result in legal consequences such as arrest, imprisonment, or fines.
Overdose and death: The risk of overdose and death is significantly increased among individuals with drug addiction. Overdose can occur as a result of taking too much of a drug or mixing substances, which can lead to fatal consequences.
Impact on society: Drug addiction has far-reaching effects on society, including increased healthcare costs, lost productivity, crime, and the burden on the criminal justice system. Additionally, drug addiction can contribute to social stigma and discrimination, further exacerbating the challenges faced by those struggling with addiction.