Drug abuse and addiction are a major burden to society. Many people do not understand why individuals become addicted to drugs or how drugs change the brain to foster compulsive drug abuse. They mistakenly view drug abuse and addiction as strictly a social problem and may characterize those who take drugs as morally weak. One very common belief is that drug abusers should be able to just stop taking drugs if they are only willing to change their behavior. What people often underestimate is the complexity of drug addiction -- that it is a disease that impacts the brain and because of that, stopping drug abuse is not simply a matter of willpower. Through scientific advances we now know much more about how exactly drugs work in the brain, and we also know that drug addiction can be successfully treated to help people stop abusing drugs and resume productive lives. So what is drug abuse and why do we became addicted to certain drugs? Substance abuse, also known as drug abuse, is a patterned use of a substance (drug) in which the user consumes the substance in amounts or with methods neither approved nor supervised by medical professionals. Addiction is the continued use of a mood altering substance or behavior despite adverse dependency consequences, or a neurological impairment leading to such behaviors. Addictions can include, but are not limited to, drug abuse, exercise abuse, sexual activity and gambling. Classic hallmarks of addiction include: impaired control over substances/behavior, preoccupation with substance/behavior, continued use despite consequences, and denial. Habits and patterns associated with addiction are typically characterized by immediate gratification (short-term reward), coupled with delayed deleterious effects (long-term costs). Physiological dependence occurs when the body has to adjust to the substance by incorporating the substance into its 'normal' functioning. This state creates the conditions of tolerance and...
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