The Causes of Drug Addiction
What causes a man to risk losing his family or worse his freedom for the ability to get high? What causes a parent to risk not only their own health by smoking but also the health of their children? The answer is addiction. Alan I. Leshner, PhD states that the “essence of addiction [is an] uncontrollable, compulsive drug seeking and use, even in the face of negative health and social consequences.” He goes on to say, “This is the crux of how many professional organizations all define addiction, and how we all should use the term. It is really only this expression of addiction - uncontrollable, compulsive craving, seeking and use of drugs - that matters to the addict and to his or her family, and that should matter to society as a whole. These are the elements responsible for the massive health and social problems caused by drug addiction.” (Leshner) There are many different terms that are used to describe drug addiction such as substance abuse, or chemical dependency but the truth is they do not all have the same meaning or definition. Drug addiction is the result of the transition from casual user to compulsive user and it is characterized by neurological and psychological changes in the brain.
One theory that is used to explain this transition is “the traditional hedonic view that drug pleasure and subsequent unpleasant withdrawal symptoms are the chief causes of addiction.” (Robinson, et al.) This theory hypothesizes that people begin taking drugs casually because they make them feel good and they continue to take drugs compulsively to avoid the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that occur when the drugs are no longer taken. (Robinson, et al.) “All drugs of abuse cause certain common effects after both acute and chronic exposure. All drugs of abuse converge on a common circuitry in the brain’s limbic system and prolonged use can cause permanent physical changes at the cellular and molecular level of brain functioning.” (Nestler)...
References: Nestler, Eric. (2005). Is there a common molecular pathway for addiction? Nature Neuroscience. Vol. 8 (11) pp. 1445-1449
Newlin, David. and Strubler, Kevin. (2007). The Habitual Brain: An “Adapted Habit” Theory of Substance Use Disorders. Substance Use and Misuse, 42: 503-526.
Robinson, Terry and Berridge, Kent. (2003). Addiction. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 54: 25-53
Why addiction causes craving. Harvard Mental Health Letter. www.health.harvard.edu. 2010.
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