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.
Why are drug addicts so manipulative?
Individuals struggling with addiction can sometimes exhibit manipulative behaviors, but it's essential to understand that this isn't a characteristic of the person themselves, but rather a manifestation of the disease of addiction. These behaviors are typically driven by a powerful compulsion to continue using substances, often rooted in physical dependency, fear of withdrawal, or a desire to escape from negative feelings.
Manipulative behaviors can manifest in various ways. For instance, a person may lie or deceive others about their substance use, make excuses, shift blame, or use emotional tactics to avoid confrontations about their behavior or to secure resources for continuing their drug use. Often, these individuals are not consciously trying to be deceptive or manipulative; instead, they are driven by the intense compulsion created by their addiction.
Addiction also affects brain functions, including those responsible for judgment, decision making, learning, memory, and behavior control. When the brain's reward system is hijacked by substance use, obtaining and using the substance can take priority over everything else, leading to behaviors that the individual might not exhibit otherwise.
It's worth noting that not every person with a substance use disorder exhibits manipulative behaviors, and if they do, it's not a sign of their character, but rather the severity of their disorder.
The development of manipulative behaviors signals a need for professional help. Substance use disorders are serious, and effective treatments often involve a combination of medication, therapy, and long-term follow-up. Therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help individuals understand their behaviors, develop healthier coping mechanisms, and rebuild damaged relationships. Family and loved ones can also benefit from guidance and support on how to navigate these challenges without enabling the 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.