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Drug Addiction

Drug addiction occurs when drug taking becomes compulsive, taking priority over other needs, often with serious adverse consequences.  The common feature of the various types of addictive drugs is that all produce a rewarding effect. This generally causes some sort of physical and psychological dependence where a stable change within the brain has occurred.  Therefore, drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing condition where abstinence is the only reliable treatment.  Drug addiction can occur with any drug although different ones are more addictive than others. Some examples with related addictiveness are as follows:

Type: Examples: Dependance Liability
Narcotic Analgesics Morphine Very Strong
Central Nervous System Ethanol Strong
Depressants

Barbituates

Anaesthetics

Solvents

Strong

Moderate

Strong

Anxiolytic drugs Benzodiazapines Moderate
Psychomotor stimulants

Amphetamines

Cocaine

Caffiene

Nicotine

Strong

Very Strong

Weak

Very Strong

Psychotomimetic

Mescaline

Cannabis

Phencyclidine

Weak or Absent

Weak

Moderate

Drug Addiction
Drug Addiction


In drug addiction there is a phenomenon known as tolerance.  In this case, the pharmacological effect decreases on repeated dosing.  This causes progressive increases to the number and size of dosing and intensity of cravings.  Once drug addiction is established, withdrawal symptoms begin to occur between dosing.  These are physical and psychological adverse effects resulting from the body’s reaction to decreasing levels of the drug.  If someone is trying to break the drug addiction, these symptoms can last days or weeks.  When a drug addict has recovered from the drug addiction’s withdrawal symptoms they are still very likely to revert back to taking drugs.  This suggests there is more than physical dependence in long term drug addiction.  Often environmental cues, sights, sounds, and smells had become associated with the drug addiction and can often trigger a former drug addict to begin to use drugs again.

Family studies clearly indicate a genetic link to susceptibility to drug addiction.  The generally accepted theory is that many different genes contribute small amounts to a person’s overall susceptibility.  With this theory, it is unlikely for any single process or cure to be developed that will address all forms of drug addiction or be able to predict whether a person will become an addict or not.