Saturday, January 28, 2017

An Overview of Drug Addiction

Dependence on a drug is influenced by the personality of the drug-taker, circumstances, and the drug itself. Certain kinds of personality, especially the psychopathic, the immature and the unstable, readily become addicted to drugs and will use any drug that is available, indicating that the nature of the person is more significant than the nature of the drug. If one drug becomes difficult to obtain the addict will just use another drug.

A drug may be used simply because it is easily accessible. For example, in certain occupations there is frequent exposure to certain kinds of drugs. In some cases people become addicted to sleeping tablets first given to them in hospital as a sedative.

A drug itself may have certain attractions, and produce certain desired effects. For example, alcohol may be used to reduce inhibitions, morphine to kill pain, and barbiturates to produce ‘highs’. Also some drugs are more likely to lead to dependence than others. There is considerably greater psychological dependence on heroin, morphine, cocaine, and amphetamine than on marijuana, and there is greater physical dependence on heroin and morphine than on barbiturates, alcohol and amphetamine, and physical dependence is even less on cocaine and marijuana.

The most common addictive drugs are the opiates or narcotics such as heroin or morphine. Morphine can be prescribed to relieve pain without fear of addiction, though if taken often enough it will lead to addiction. Heroin, which is a derivative of morphine, is even more likely to cause addiction. If heroin is withdrawn from the addict he will experience restlessness and sweating.

Physical dependence is a state of addiction which develops from taking increasing amounts of the drug as tolerance increases. Eventually it is impossible to withdraw the drug without severe withdrawal symptoms, in some cases leading to death. The need to relieve these symptoms is a feature of physical addiction.

Psychological dependence is the formation of a habit involving milder forms of addictive drugs such as tobacco, alcohol, and amphetamines. A person develops a habit of taking a particular drug because it produces a certain effect or change in mood. The habit is established when the individual takes the drug irrespective of mood. This indicates the psychological need and the individual becomes disturbed if the drug is not available when needed.

Addiction of tobacco nicotine is more psychological than physical. The withdrawal symptoms include craving for a cigarette, sleeplessness, coughing, and increase in appetite. The dependence on alcohol, which has been described as a liquid barbiturate, is less likely than dependence on other barbiturates such as amphetamines. The use of solid barbiturates has now been largely replaced by the use of tranquilizers such as diazepam and oxazepam.

Drug addiction is responsible for thousands of deaths by suicide and accidental overdose, for considerable private suffering, for reduced working efficiency and for the loss of millions of working hours.

The eventual effects on the individual vary with the drug. In the case of cigarette smoking there may be damage to the lungs and arteries, and in case of alcoholism, brain damage.

Illegal drug-taking can lead to conflict with the legal authorities and to danger from association with criminals. A heroin addict risks being sold a sample of indeterminate strength, with the consequent dangers of over dosage.

Treatment of addiction is extremely difficult. Psychotherapy is often used, though it is seldom successful. Alcoholics can be helped by Alcoholics Anonymous. Dependency on cocaine or amphetamine is treated by withdrawal of the drug. Heroin addicts may need a steady supply of a drug: in Australia methadone is provided, in Britain the registered addict is maintained on a legal supply of heroin. Some argue that heroin addiction should be treated as an infectious disease and that addicts should be isolated, otherwise they will spread the habit.

The spread of drugs in Western societies continues despite attempts to prevent it, and the problems of drug dependence are still controversial.


Drug Abuse and Addiction: Understanding Signs, Symptoms, Effects;, Deborah Cutter, Psy.D., Ellen Jaffe-Gill, M.A, Robert Segal, M.A. and Jeanne Segal PhD, Feb, 2008

Drug Addiction, California State University, Northridge, David Allen Deans, 1997

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