US Drug Test Centers Blog/News

Understanding Drug Use and Addiction

Posted: Aug 25 2016

By: Jane Schwab

There are several studies that look at the addictive behavior within humans who deal daily with addiction. While many people succumb to the habitual lifestyle, many friends and family members have a difficult time understanding drug use and addiction. Looking at the broad spectrum of available drugs, we understand that certain receptors within the brain are triggered when some people ingest ingredients that are considered addictive. While addiction can come in many forms, from legal drugs such as tobacco, alcoholic beverages, and gambling, there are layers of other illegal substances that people seek a reward within their brains.

Over the past 30 years, people have come to understand more and more about how addiction takes hold of individuals, how certain chemical responses in the brain allow for the overload of dopamine and people achieve the state of bliss they are seeking through substance abuse. There is no clear understanding of why people continue to use or are dependent on specific drugs. Even people who are not openly addicted to substances will often feel the effects of missing their morning coffee or tea because their brains are screaming for doses of caffeine.

Looking at addiction and how people handle the problem is an ongoing process. Drug and alcohol treatment programs implemented by courts are continuously modified to help people achieve successful rehabilitation. Genetics, ethnicity, and gender contribute to the presence of certain cognitive disorders. Science has proven that depression is hereditary, just like cancer, and possibly addiction. There are environmental factors that create circumstances that are avenues for people to become addicted to substances.

The same can be said of serial killers and abusers, and environmental conditioning creates monsters. Loving households with supportive guidance from any positive influence usually don't breed monsters. The same cannot be said of addictive behavior. It may be easier to prevent addiction than cure it. People prone to alcoholism because they have family members who deal with alcohol problems are more likely to be predisposed to addictive qualities. However, knowing the potential is half the battle. It is an easier fight than the road to recovery. Once the brain has tasted the potential of addiction it is actively seeking the next fix; both consciously and subconsciously.

woman with smoke coming out of her mouthFor people who know friends or family that are dealing with addiction, it's important to be upfront about the problem. Often, inadvertently, friends and family of addicts become codependents, allowing the addiction to creating a paradigm that is negative for all parties included. Codependency is a specific definition relating to people who are actively dealing with addiction where the emotional or psychological framework feeds a support system for the addict.

While parents don't want to lose their children to alcohol or drugs, they are more likely to pay for the addiction than help when the time comes. The courts across the country are aware of codependency and when it comes to helping someone through recovery treatment programs, they are unable to order the family members or friends to attend, but judges will warn people of the potential dangers of codependent relationships.

There are people who can be functioning members of society for years and hide their dependency on drugs or alcohol. Many "functioning drunks" do not openly display the signs of intoxication. They have the potential to provide alcohol breathalyzer results that are above the legal limit and can still perform and pass field sobriety tests. Active heroin addicts who use the narcotic habitually are used to a specific injection amount. They have built up a tolerance that allows them to discretely use heroin daily.

man using syringeOften when you read about people overdosing on heroin it is not because they are injecting more than their regular does, it is because the refill of their supply is more refined, purer than what they have become accustomed to and when they inject their "usual" dose, it is well above their tolerance level and their bodies are unable to withstand the dose. Many people who feel they are not addicted to anything and habitually use over-the-counter medication are in denial. Prescription medication has become the number one addiction for millions of Americans.

Pain killers like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and acetaminophen are some of the most prescribed medications. Sleep aid like eszopiclone, ramelteon, zolpidem, and zaleplon are the most common prescriptions provided to people. Many people who take sleep aids habitually are unable to remain asleep for more than six hours without a daily dose of medication. Addiction is a behavior that is ingrained into our culture and fed to us through the media. Advertisers use addiction to their advantage. While cigarette commercials were banned from television campaigns in 1965, alcoholic beverages continue to plague television airwaves and are subliminally injecting their intentions into people who struggle with addiction.

While it's easy for someone to say they are a recovered alcoholic, they know intrinsically that it's something they are constantly working on. People who are new to treatment programs are amazed to find out much of their food, and beverages feed their addiction in minute quantities. When people struggle with addiction, they must monitor every aspect of their lives, including television advertising, and abstain from over the counter medications, cough syrups, and some beverages that are high in caffeine.

glass of wineIf you know someone who is dealing with addiction, whatever the cause, you may not relate to their problems because you've never had to deal with its internal impact. However, it is best to be supportive without becoming codependent. Show you care through small changes in lifestyle. Remove alcoholic beverages from households, do not drink or smoke around people who are dealing with addiction.

Many individuals who are in recovery groups will swap out their addiction for another addiction. Alcoholics will feed their addiction through caffeine and tobacco use. Drug addicts also use tobacco to help stimulate the dopamine levels in the brain. While they may be abstaining from illegal drug use, they are still displaying addictive behavior through the use of legal drugs such as alcohol or caffeine. Sometimes it's just a matter of taking the good instead of the bad to help people with problems.


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