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Learn More About Substance Abuse And Addiction
By creating awareness and sharing education about substance abuse and addiction, we can better help those suffering within our community.
Understanding The Difference Between Substance Abuse And Addiction
While similar, there is a difference between addiction and substance abuse. While both have negative effects on a person’s life, understanding the difference between substance abuse and addiction is important.
A person can abuse a substance like drugs or alcohol without being clinically addicted to those substances. The main difference between substance abuse and addiction is that addiction is a disease that hurts nearly every area of a person’s life.
A person struggling with addiction can often make tragic choices that continue to endanger themselves, their families, and other loved ones. It’s important to understand that someone with an addiction has a chemical dependency that keeps them from changing their behavior on their own.
Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse
Substance abuse can affect people from any walk of life. No matter the reason someone begins to abuse drugs or alcohol, it can quickly take over their life. Many people begin abusing a substance prior to developing a serious addiction, so recognizing the signs of substance abuse is important.
If you or someone in your life is showing any of the signs of substance abuse below, it’s time to get help.
- Inability to meet responsibilities at work or home in order to use a substance;
- Dramatic changes in habits, moods, personality, or priorities;
- Continuing to use the substance, even knowing it can cause serious health problems and other issues; and
- Behaving recklessly while under the influence of the substance, or while trying to purchase more of the substance.
Signs And Symptoms Of Addiction
If you’re wondering whether you or a loved one have an addiction to a substance like drugs or alcohol, asking the following questions may help. The more “yes” answers, the more likely drinking or drug abuse could have developed into an addiction.
- Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking or drug use?
- Have you tried to cut back, but couldn’t?
- Do you ever feel bad, guilty, or ashamed about your drinking or drug use?
- Do you ever lie about how much or how often you drink or use drugs?
- Has your alcohol or drug use caused problems in your relationships?
- Have your friends or family members expressed concern about your alcohol or drug use?
- On more than one occasion, have you done or said something while drinking or using drugs that you later regretted?
- Are you going through your prescription medication at a faster-than-expected rate?
- Have you ever blacked out from drinking or drug use?
- Has your alcohol or drug use gotten you into trouble at work or with the law?
How Drug Abuse Affects the Brain
Some drugs are more addictive than others. Thanks to scientific brain imaging, it has been discovered the addictive drugs and other substances become addictive because they change the neurons in the brain, as well as the way they behave. Most commonly, drugs impact the areas of the brain that recognize pleasure.
Drug abuse affects the brain by altering a person’s memory, judgment, decision-making skills, and perception of pleasure. Drug abuse changes the way neurons function in the brain. Once this happens, a person begins to perceive the drug as a prime source of pleasure, which causes the person to engage in risky behaviors in order to obtain the drug.
As the drug takes its hold, things that once seemed enjoyable no longer create the same pleasurable feelings, while the brain begins to perceive the drug itself as a source of pleasure. Drug may also affect the areas of the brain responsible for judgment, decision-making, and memory. This is one reason why drug abusers may behave recklessly, and why they begin engaging in riskier and riskier behavior in order to obtain the drug.
Activating the Brain Reward System
The abuse of addictive substances activates the brain reward system. Frequently activating this system with drugs can lead to addiction.
The brain reward system is naturally activated when we take part in actions that are good for us. It is part of our natural ability to adapt and survive. Whenever something activates this system, the brain assumes something necessary to survive is happening. The brain then rewards that behavior by creating feelings of pleasure.
Drinking water when we are thirsty, for example, activates the reward system, so we repeat this behavior. Addictive substances hijack this system, causing feelings of pleasure for actions that are actually harmful. Unfortunately, addictive substances have a far stronger effect on the brain reward system.
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