Fall semester topics

Drug and substance abuse

Addiction (substance abuse) is a condition in which the body must have a drug to avoid physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. Addiction’s first stage is dependence, during which the search for a drug dominates an individual’s life. An addict eventually develops tolerance, which forces the person to consume larger and larger doses of the drug to get the same effect. (Adapted from the Encyclopedia of Psychology)

How does we use the terms drug abuse and addiction?
People use substances for a variety of reasons. It becomes drug abuse when people use illegal drugs or use legal drugs inappropriately. This includes the repeated use of drugs to produce pleasure, alleviate stress, and/or alter or avoid reality. It also includes using prescription drugs in ways other than prescribed or using someone else’s prescription. Addiction occurs when a person cannot control the impulse to use drugs even when there are negative consequences—the defining characteristic of addiction. These behavioral changes are also accompanied by changes in brain functioning, especially in the brain’s natural inhibition and reward centers. NIDA’s use of the term addiction corresponds roughly to the DSM definition of substance use disorder. The DSM does not use the term addiction.

What is the difference between physical dependence, dependence, and addiction?
Physical dependence is not equivalent to dependence or addiction, and may occur with the regular (daily or almost daily) use of any substance, legal or illegal, even when taken as prescribed. It occurs because the body naturally adapts to regular exposure to a substance (e.g., caffeine or a prescription drug). When that substance is taken away, symptoms can emerge while the body re-adjusts to the loss of the substance. Physical dependence can lead to craving the drug to relieve the withdrawal symptoms. Drug dependence and addiction refer to substance use disorders, which may include physical dependence but must also meet additional criteria.

How do drugs work in the brain to produce pleasure?
Nearly all addictive drugs directly or indirectly target the brain’s reward system by flooding the circuit with dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, cognition, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. The overstimulation of this system, which rewards our natural behaviors, produces the euphoric effects sought by people who use drugs and teaches them to repeat the behavior.

Is drug abuse a voluntary behavior?
The initial decision to take drugs is mostly voluntary. However, when addiction takes over, a person’s ability to exert self-control can become seriously impaired. Brain-imaging studies from people addicted to drugs show physical changes in areas of the brain that are critical for judgment, decisionmaking, learning, memory, and behavior control. Scientists believe that these changes alter the way the brain works and may help explain the compulsive and destructive behaviors of an addicted person.

Can addiction be treated successfully?
Yes. Addiction is a treatable, chronic disease that can be managed successfully. Research shows that combining behavioral therapy with medications, where available, is the best way to ensure success for most patients. Treatment approaches must be tailored to address each patient’s drug use patterns and drug-related medical, psychiatric, and social problems.

Does relapse to drug use mean treatment has failed?
No. The chronic nature of addiction means that relapsing to drug use is not only possible but also likely. Relapse rates are similar to those for other well-characterized chronic medical illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma, which also have both physiological and behavioral components. Treatment of chronic diseases involves changing deeply imbedded behaviors. For the addicted patient, lapses back to drug use indicate that treatment needs to be reinstated or adjusted, or that alternate treatment is needed.
Source info

A few words about marijuana use - its short and long term effects

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  • Read more on the long term effects

  • Psychiatric effects of cannabis
  • Recommended websites to visit for further information

  • Breaking free from addiction
  • Addiction Center – Drug Rehab Information(USA)
  • Drug Rehab options
  • Recommended books

    Suzette Glasner-Edwards PhD: The Addiction Recovery Skills Workbook. New Harbinger Publications. 2015.
    Rebecca E. Williams: The Mindfulness Workbook for Addiction: A Guide to Coping with the Grief, Stress and Anger that Trigger Addictive Behaviors. New Harbinger Publications. 2012.
    John Bradshaw: Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child. 1992.
    Janet Geringer Woititz: Adult children of alcoholics. 1989.
    Janet Geringer Woititz: Struggle for Intimacy. 1986.
    Janet Geringer Woititz: Self-Sabotage Syndrome: Adult Children in the Workplace. 1989.
    Janet Geringer Woititz: Lifeskills for Adult Children. 1990.
    Susan Anderson: The Journey from Abandonment to Healing: Revised and Updated. 2014.

    Additional web resources

  • The Opposite Of Addiction is Connection