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Drug Addiction Essay

1137 words - 5 pages

Drug addiction is most often defined as a chronically relapsing disorder in which the addict experiences uncontrollable compulsion to take drugs, while simultaneously the repertoire of behaviors not related to drug seeking, taking, and recovery, declines dramatically."(1) Recent scientific research has shown significant causal relationships between drug addiction and genetic predisposition as well as between addiction and environmental factors. Both genetics and the environment influence the brain, which in turn effects the behavior of usage. Once an individual begins using psychotropic substances, such as cocaine or heroin, measurable changes in brain chemistry and physiology perpetuate the ...view middle of the document...

(3) Can these predispositions be observed in other behaviors before the addiction is active? Addiction specialists refer to "addictive behavior" as a category much broader than the limited definition of actual usage, and many of these addictive behaviors can identified in an addict before they ever pick up the drug. Should we assume that those addictive behaviors are purely a direct result of genetic patterns, or can a person learn addictive behavior from their surroundings? Why does not the source of the behavior of drug use affect the prognosis of addiction?

Environmental Influences on the Behavior of Drug Addiction:
While addiction does seem to follow a genetic path in families, even when there is no contact between generations of addicts, a person's environment can contribute to their tendency towards addiction. Community characteristics such as access to education, income level, crime rates, and family dynamic can all affect if and when an individual begins usage. Regardless of these many factors, drug addiction affects all segments of society; the difference between Bel-Air and a Compton ghetto lies merely in the area's drug of choice and the visibility of usage/trafficking. Social risk factors are more difficult to isolate in research studies than specific neurobiological genes, but definitive patterns have emerged within environmental categories.(4) However, even a complete understanding of the relevant risk factors for addiction does not solve the entire equation. Addiction does not only concern the initial usage, but the continued/increased use of a substance and repeated relapse after temporary abstinence. Beyond the roles of genes and the environment in this pattern, a major contributor to continued use, and therefore to addiction, is the change in brain physiology caused by drug use.

Effects of Usage on Brain Physiology:
Pleasure responses in the brain are a type of reward pathway whereby activating dopamine receptors encourages repetition of the responsible behavior.(5) Drug addiction interferes with/over-activates this natural cycle by altering "neural function in such a way as to render the brain circuits mediating various behavioral effects of these drugs more, or less, responsive to those effects."(1) Several neurotransmitter and neuropeptide systems have been shown to disrupt brain circuits mediating mood, affecting the underlying addiction process. Beyond the effects on serotonin and norepinephrine levels, which in turn affect mood and the pleasure-response system, drugs also inhibit an individual's decision-making process, implying an inhibition of free will and a hindrance of the I-function. "The highest levels of human cognition, such as problem solving and complex decision making"...

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