Drug abuse dates as far back as the Biblical era, so it is not a new phenomenon. “The emotional and social damage and the devastation linked to drugs and their use is immeasurable. ” The ripple of subversive and detrimental consequences from alcoholism, drug addictions, and addictive behavior is appalling. Among the long list of effects is lost productivity, anxiety, depression, increased crime rate, probable incarceration, frequent illness, and premature death. The limitless consequences include the destruction to personal development, relationships, and families (Henderson 1-2).
Understandably, Americans consider drug abuse to be one of the most serious problems” in the fabric of society. And although “addiction is the result of voluntary drug use, addiction is no longer voluntary behavior, it’s uncontrollable behavior,” says Alan Leshner, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (Torr 12-13). Addiction is a progressive, chronic, and ultimately a fatal disease. It is progressive in the sense that if it is left untreated it will get worse. Chronic means long term.
Once one becomes dependent, it is like diabetes, in that diabetes is an incurable disease that can only be controlled. Long-term addictions have the high potential to lead to death through overdose, AIDs, suicide, or an accident (Aronson 17). The cycle of addiction tends to follow a pattern. People first take drugs for many different reasons. Early on, drug experimentation can stem from curiosity, peer pressure and influence, or because of the environment people live in (Nagle 17). For example, in the East Side of downtown it is apparent that drug dealing and drug usage is prevalent.
The police recently arrested 54 individuals from the East Side. Unfortunately it was just one block out of approximately 50 more on that side of town. Next comes the social use stage. This is the stage where most individuals tend to stop or control their usage. People will try it and occasionally use drugs to “cut loose”, party, and have a good time, generally if, and only if, everyone else around them is doing it. Otherwise they could either take it or leave it and don’t necessarily seek out illegal drugs.
However, as a tolerance to the substances begins to build and the social group changes from friends in the same peer group to primarily drug users and abusers, that is when the drug abuse starts. People become preoccupied with the thought of obtaining drugs. Instead of people living a life with the occasional lapse where drugs are used socially, drug abusers plan their life around using. The majority of their time is spent thinking about drug usage. They plan their usage carefully and choose their friends based on the availability of drugs. Then the aspect of denial becomes integral.
Addicts make excuses to use. Any excuse is valid, It could be because they are sad or mad, lonely, depressed, made a bad test grade, are in trouble with the authorities, had an argument with a girlfriend or parent or a teacher until they find a way to get high. The abused substance often doesn’t matter and getting high becomes all that is important regardless. They lose control on how to moderate their use and over their willpower to prioritize their life, thus allowing the drugs to take precedence, affecting family and friend relationships.
Former friends drift further away, and the addict bonds more closely with a new set of user/addict “friends. ” Everyone gets along when one is high, and the endless spiral begins to form where all hope is lost. By now, the addict may have medical, legal, or psychiatric problems, but still justify their continued abuse because of their problems or because they are stressed, or the sky is blue, the sun is out, or hey, it’s raining, etc. (Nagle 17-19). According to Leshner, drug addiction “is the result of drugs changing your brain in fundamental ways” (Torr 13).
There are two kind of addition: psychological and physical. When a person believes that they need drugs to survive they are psychologically addicted, or dependent (Nagle 22). This means that users feel the need to take the drug for the rush or feeling of relaxation it creates. People who are psychologically dependent believe that they have to use the drug to feel “normal. ” They only feel right when they are high on the drugs (Aronson 17). Drugs become a part of life as necessary as food and water. Physical addiction is a result of the psychological.
A person’s mind and body change so much that they need the drug in order to function normally. Their body and brain come to accept certain levels of the substance as normal (Nagle23). They continue to use the drug despite the pending negative consequences associated. People who are addicted will suffer withdrawal symptoms if they become abstinent from the drug. And sadly enough, certain individuals are predisposed to a physical dependence (Aronson 18-19). Leshner says, “addiction is literally a disease of the brain” (Torr 13).
Our bodies have a system of checks and balances that keep us from being too happy, too sad, too stressed out–too anything. In a way, it’s as if we have an electrical citcuit board in our brain that determines how much of various neurotransmitters we need in certain situations. When it gets a signal, the brain then produces the correct amount. ” (Nagle 16). Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for pleasure and mood (Dopamine 1). “Drugs and alcohol act like a power surge, overloading the brain with chemicals. ” (Nagle 17).
Drugs produce their euphoric effects by stimulating the release of dopamine in the brain (Torr 13). Repeated use of the drugs cause the dopamine levels to rise so much that the brain adjusts to handle the extra chemicals being put into it. As a result the brain tells the neurotransmitters to slow down the release of dopamine levels. Consequently, normal levels of dopamine are too low and when there is no “power surge” to stimulate the release of dopamine the person becomes depressed, and they then have to take more of the drug in order to feel better (Nagle 16-17).
In some genetically driven circumstances, certain individuals’ dopamine systems are not up to par. They might not have as many receptors as a normal person would have. Biologically they are more susceptible to addiction because it is in their genetic makeup, and when these individuals partake in the repetitious use of drugs, they cause the shutdown of some of some of these receptors causing an addiction almost instantaneously (Dopamine 1). Leshner says, that “eventually, the drugs decrease the person’s ability to experience pleasure without a drug” (Torr 13).
Enfin, one of the most browbeating and frustrating things in the world is the disease of addiction. It is a progressive, chronic, and often fatal disease that takes control of life away from people. However, “drugs are here to stay, and… we have no choice but to learn how to live with them so that they cause the least possible harm” (Torr 116). Unfortunately, ten percent of all eighth graders and twenty percent of all tenth graders are using marijuana at least once a month (Torr 38).