What Is Drug Addiction?
Addiction is a disease that affects your brain and behavior. When you’re addicted to drugs, you can’t resist the urge to use them, no matter how much harm the drugs may cause.
Drug addiction isn’t about just heroin, cocaine, or other illegal drugs. You can get addicted to alcohol, nicotine, opioid painkillers, and other legal substances.
At first, you may choose to take a drug because you like the way it makes you feel. You may think you can control how much and how often you use it. But over time, drugs change how your brain works. These physical changes can last a long time. They make you lose self-control and can lead you to damaging behaviors.
Addiction vs. Abuse
Drug abuse is when you use legal or illegal substances in ways you shouldn’t. You might take more than the regular dose of pills or use someone else’s prescription. You may abuse drugs to feel good, ease stress, or avoid reality. But usually, you’re able to change your unhealthy habits or stop using altogether.
Addiction is when you can’t stop. Not when it puts your health in danger. Not when it causes financial, emotional, and other problems for you or your loved ones. That urge to get and use drugs can fill up every minute of the day, even if you want to quit.
Effect on Your Brain
Your brain is wired to make you want to repeat experiences that make you feel good. So you’re motivated to do them again and again.
The drugs that may be addictive target your brain’s reward system. They flood your brain with a chemical called dopamine. This triggers a feeling of intense pleasure. So you keep taking the drug to chase that high.
When you use drugs for a long time, it can cause changes in other brain chemical systems and circuits as well. They can hurt your:
•Ability to learn
Together, these brain changes can drive you to seek out and take drugs in ways that are beyond your control.