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Article Summary

Drug Addictions

Drug addictions are characterized by compulsive drug cravings, drug seeking, and drug using despite negative consequences. Whether illegal or prescription, drugs have a tendency to produce a feeling of peace and of power, the main source of their addictive nature.

Drugs of addiction include prescription medications, illegal drugs, and alcohol, as all of these things are mind-altering substances. They produce an euphoric feeling (high) that makes them addictive. Many individuals fall under the grip of drug addiction to escape reality or artificially produce feelings of pleasure and the illusion of a stress free environment.

Drugs affect each person differently. This variable is one of the things that makes drug addiction so dangerous. No individual can know prior to taking drugs what kind of affect it will have on them.  Some users can use drugs periodically and never become addicted, while others are instant drug addicts with the first use of a drug.

Aspects of Drug Addiction

Addiction has two components, physical addiction and psychological addiction. Physical addiction occurs when a drug has been used habitually and the body has become accustomed to its effects. The person must then continue to use the drug in order to feel normal, or its absence will trigger the symptoms of withdrawal.

Psychological addiction occurs when a drug has been used habitually and the mind has become emotionally reliant on its effects, either to elicit pleasure or relieve pain, and does not feel capable of functioning without it. Its absence produces intense cravings, which are often brought on or magnified by stress.

A person suffering with drug addictions often experiences both physical and psychological addiction components. However, there a few drugs such as marijuana and cocaine that do not cause the addict to experience physical addiction. Whereas it is well known that heroin and other opiates causes severe physical as well as psychological addictions in the user.

The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary. However, when drug abuse takes over, a person's ability to exert self control can become seriously impaired. Brain imaging studies from drug-addicted individuals show physical changes in areas of the brain that are critical to judgment, decision making, learning and memory, and behavior control. Scientists believe that these changes alter the way the brain works, and may help explain the compulsive and destructive behaviors of drug addictions.

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