The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines drug addiction as “a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences,” or in other words, a brain disorder. In 2017, about 20 million adults in the United States suffered from drug addiction, and this number has spiked ever since and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Drugs are capable of allowing individuals to reach a temporary state of euphoria because it releases a high amount of a chemical known as dopamine. Dopamine, or the “‘feel-good’ hormone,” (Cleveland Clinic) gives individuals a sense of pleasure or excitement that they desire. However, because of this, the brain that was once capable of releasing this chemical alone is no longer able to function properly. Instead, it becomes dependent on the drugs one intakes to produce it. An example is nicotine that is commonly found in cigarettes. According to the National Library of Medicine, nicotine stimulates the dopaminergic system that increases “the concentration of dopamine in [our] nuclear accumbens.” As a result, the brain that was once capable of releasing this chemical alone is no longer able to function properly and is rather dependent on the drugs one intakes to produce it. In addition, because of the drug changing how our body functions, it can make people feel more anxious as the drug wears off.
Over time, people gradually develop a consistent pattern of taking high doses to maintain their happiness or feelings of pleasure. This indicates that the person has developed a tolerance, or the need to take a greater amount of that drug to have the same effect. For example, heavy drinkers have to drink a lot of alcohol compared to others to feel relaxed or confident. However, because of the excessive amount of alcohol in our body system, it affects our hippocampus and our ability to create long-term memories.
Individuals have attempted to quit, however the majority have failed. In 2018, out of the 55 percent of adults who have attempted to stop smoking, solely 5 percent succeeded in doing so. The primary reason for the failure in quitting is withdrawal is because of the aftereffect one feels known as withdrawal. Common symptoms one feels is pain in their muscles, craving, depression, and nausea. In response to the serious problem alcohol poses on society, there are many treatment centers that are willing to help individuals.