“Addiction is a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence.” 

-American Psychiatric Association, 2022

Effects of alcohol or other drug addiction

When experiencing addiction, people may ingest more of a substance than they would like, often continuing the action despite potential harmful consequences. With continued use, the individual’s thinking can be affected so much that they believe it is impossible to live life without the substance.

People with addiction may intensely focus on alcohol or other drugs so much that using completely takes over their lives. This intense focus may result from the massive amounts of dopamine released into the brain, creating feelings of pleasure, relaxation, and euphoria. This may alter the brain chemistry to desire more alcohol or other drugs but can result in the person experiencing less pleasure in activities they once enjoyed. Fortunately, effective treatments do exist.

Some side effects of addiction include:  

  • low self-esteem
  • shame
  • fear
  • anger
  • guilt.

These feelings can rise to the surface due to substance use, making the individual less able to cope without using. Negative consequences can often extend beyond the individual and impact their families, friends, the surrounding community, work, police, and have legal implications.

In 2018, the number of people who died from a drug overdose was far greater than the number of people who died from a road accident.

The changes incurred in the brain by drug and alcohol use can be persistent, which is why drug addiction is a “relapsing” disease – people in recovery are at increased risk for returning to drug use even after years of not taking the drug.

It is common for a person to relapse, but relapse does not mean that treatment does not work. As with other chronic health conditions, treatment should be ongoing and should be adjusted based on how the patient responds. Treatment plans need to be reviewed often and modified to fit the patients changing needs.

Information sourced from: drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-use-addiction

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