Drug Addiction: Disease or Habit? When people hear the words drug addict, these words have negative connotations and stigmas attached to them. People visualize a person who does not care about anything, including family, work, or commitments, except for obtaining money to buy drugs to get high. However, there are many people who are drug addicts that maintain a normal, functional life. Most people who are drug addicts would give anything to kick the habit; they do not enjoy the high anymore.
The problem is, they can’t. Addiction, defined by Webster, is a compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal. So, if the addicts want to stop, why can’t they? Is drug addiction a disease or habit? Drug dependency takes a long course from action to habits to compulsion. The personal effects of prescription drugs is a topic that hits home for me.
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I have had many friends lose their lives due to prescription drugs, literally and figuratively. Some were thrill-seekers, some just curious; some tried drugs because their friends used, or they wanted to be perceived as cool. Even more susceptible, though, are the many people who use drugs in order to cope with unpleasant emotions and the difficulties of life. They see drug usage as a way to escape their problems, but in all reality, the use of drugs does nothing but make their problems worse or even create new ones.
Whether it be for the thrill or distraction, one thing is clear: no one plans on being a drug addict; it takes time. A person will start using the drug of his or her choice for a temporary fix, and before long, they are using more and more of that drug as well as experimenting with different types of other drugs. So, by the time they realize they have a problem, the user has lost his or her ability to control the drug use; they can’t quit. If a person using drugs wants to stop, but can’t, addiction has to be more than just a habit.
I will need to do more research, but in this portion of my paper I would like to explain the journey that drugs take through the body. This way, I can convince the readers that drug addiction is more than a habit, and can be considered a brain disease. I will use the information I gained in my psychology class in college where we spent a lot of time going over the science side of addiction and what it does to the brain. It allowed me to see addiction as a brain disease rather than a compulsive habit and that helped me deal with the loss of my friends.
I will explain the way that prescription pain killers mimic the endorphins, the body’s natural “feel-good” chemical and how the brain will eventually become tolerant to the “fake” endorphins and depend more and more on pain killers to keep from experiences withdrawal symptoms. Nowadays, it seems like there is a pill for everything. The media tries to convince consumers that they need a pill to cure ailments they didn’t even know they had. Also, doctors have been irresponsible when it comes to prescribing habit forming drugs, especially to young adults.
I have a friend, Brandon, whose leg was run over by a tractor when he was eighteen years old. The doctor prescribed him an extremely high dosage of pain killers and before he knew it, he had developed a high tolerance for them. Once his leg was healed, he wanted to stop taking the pain killers, but his body went through a state of withdrawal. He wanted to stop taking the pills so bad that he checked himself into rehab. However, in order to get off of the pain killers, the doctors put him on methadone; a pill prescribed to prevent withdrawal symptoms in patients who were addicted to opiate drugs.
Methadone may help relieve withdrawal symptoms from opiates, but is habit forming also, which means it will pose withdrawal symptoms when the patient tries to quit taking it as well. When trying to stop taking methadone, Brandon experienced nausea, vomiting, twitching, shaking, sweating, and blackouts. He couldn’t sleep or eat for days. If these symptoms were advertised, instead of the euphoria they show young adults now, there would be less dependency on prescription drugs. Drug addiction is a disabling disease and can ruin a person’s life.
By taking drugs, a person’s brain becomes “rewired” to tolerate high amounts of dopamine neurotransmitters, but once those high amounts of dopamine cease to exist, the person experiences withdrawal symptoms. Whether you call it a habit or disease, either way it is a problem that needs to be dealt with. Drug addiction is not just a problem for young adults between the ages of 18 to 25; it is a problem with children at age 12, all the way to senior citizens. I believe if children are able to see drug addiction as a disease, then maybe, just maybe, they will be able to make the right decision regarding the beginning use of prescription drugs.
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