Can we talk? Questions Teens Ask About Drugs and Health
Why do people take drugs when they know they're bad?
Every day, we make decisions that have an effect on our well-being. People use drugs for a variety of reasons, including coping with life's problems, escaping from reality, relieving pain, and attempting to fit in, to name a few. And though they are aware of the harmful effects of substances on their health and lives, some people find it difficult to avoid using them. This is due to the fact that repeated drug use can cause brain changes that make it difficult to stop using them, even though people want to. When this occurs, the individual is suffering from drug use disorder, which is a medical condition. Addiction is a severe form of substance use disorder.
All addictive drugs cause the brain to release the chemical dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is produced after engaging in pleasurable and rewarding behaviours. Dopamine makes the brain recall pleasurable experiences such as food and sex, reinforcing the need to seek them out again. When a drug is used repeatedly, it fills the brain with more dopamine, which can alter how the brain reacts to that drug. With repeated use, a greater quantity of the drug is needed to produce the same pleasurable effect. When the drug is not available, people may experience the negative symptoms of withdrawal, which may include stress, anxiety, depression, and sometimes physical symptoms such as sweating, vomiting and pain.
Repeated cycles of substance use and withdrawal can wreak havoc on brain function, making it difficult for people to experience satisfaction in their everyday lives. Many people continue to use drugs in order to escape the lows triggered by withdrawal rather than seeking the highs they once had.
Treatment will help people with drug use disorders mitigate these negative consequences and live healthy lives. The sooner a person receives treatment, the better the chance of recovery.
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