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What Makes Drugs Addictive?


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It is estimated each year thousands of people suffer from an addiction to a controlled substance. Whether the person is dependent upon alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, or prescription drugs obtained through legal or illegal means, the fact remains that an addiction can cause a number of health risks if not treated. Mental disorders, skin lesions, heart problems, and even death have been attributed to varying levels of drug abuse.

People may become addicted to drugs through various circumstances. Recovery from an unrelated condition may lead to a patient developing a dependence on painkillers, while peer pressure contributes to the regular drug abuse habits of young people. Stress of everyday life may coax people into drinking or taking depressants, while others driven to succeed may seek help with stimulants and become addicted.

While much has been written on what leads people into drug and alcohol abuse, not everybody facing these problems or dealing with a loved one who is an addict understands exactly what it is that causes people to become dependent. With certain drugs, depending on the user, there are elements involved that create an imbalance in the body that causes it to need more of the drug in order to function. The addictive nature of drugs isn't always related to the glamor or rebellion associated with certain substances. In many cases, once a drug grabs hold of you it can be difficult to escape.

Take cocaine, for example. Cocaine is a stimulant that was once used legally in medicine until discovery of its addictive qualities and risks to health forced legislation to make it illegal. Use of cocaine increase the amount of dopamine and seratonin in the brain - these chemical substances regulate feelings of pleasure in the body, and as they are stimulated so are those feelings of euphoria. Anyone who would choose to feel happy all the time and experiments with cocaine, methamphetamine, or a similar drug may find it difficult to want to give up that high.

For people who have trouble sleeping and relaxing, dependency on depressants like alcohol and prescription painkillers build the desire to remain in a constant comfortable, almost “stoned" state. The problem with constant use of any drug, though, is that many health problems are associated with overuse. Liver failure, a weakened immune system, and heart failure are some of the more severe conditions brought on by drug abuse.

It is important, therefore, if you are aware of a loved one abusing drugs, to seek professional help as soon as possible. Regardless of the situation that leads a person into addiction, all paths can take that person down a dangerous slope to poor health, poor finances, and worse if not treated. Once you know what drugs can do to a person, it is necessary to help your loved ones off drugs before too much damage is done.

Stephanie Loebs is the executive director of Williamsburg Place, one of the top drug rehab clinics in the nation. Williamsburg Place aids those who suffer from drug and/or alcohol addiction, and specializes in caring for health care professionals. For over twenty years Williamsburg Place and its joint rehabilitation center, the William J. Farley Center, have helped thousands of people from all walks of life take back their lives and overcome substance abuse.


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