Drug Addiction

Drug Addiction

An Overview of Disease Concept

Addiction can be of any kind, chemical or non-chemical. As far as chemical addiction is concerned, which involves the use of psychoactive substances, it can have a profound effect not only on a person’s health but on his life in general. It’s a chronic, relapsing ‘brain disease’ that is characterized by compulsive use of and searching of an addictive substance despite knowledge about its damaging consequences.  It is considered as chronic-disease because the brain shows distinct changes after substance use that can persist long after the use of that substance has been stopped. Unfortunately, it cannot be cured, but it can be managed with pharmacotherapy and counseling interventions.

Psychoactive substance use continues to be a global problem. With reference to a survey report presented in 2012 by Office of United Nations dealing with Drugs and Crime—UNODC, it was documented that 162-324 million people between ages 15 and 64 used illicit substances at least once in the previous year. A significant number of people who use psychoactive substances develop Substance Use Disorders.

People start using psychoactive substances for a variety of reasons, which includes; curiosity because friends are doing it, to feel good, to celebrate, to feel better and to do better. Moreover, some people use the substance to lessen the feelings of depression, stress or physical pain while others utilize it to enhance attention, to experience spiky, or to achieve the superior athletic feat. No matter what a person’s motive is to start a drug, no individual ever plans to become addicted! People who use psychoactive drugs generally start for the sake of trying one time. Every person who has a substance use disorder starts out as a rare consumption which initially appears as a voluntary act and a controllable decision. As time passes and the use continues, a person can go from voluntary use to compulsive use.

There are four main types or classes of drugs; stimulants, opioids, depressants, and hallucinogens. These substances are based on the substance’s primary effects on CNS. Stimulants like cocaine, amphetamine, nicotine, and caffeine increase the activity of the CNS. They tend to increase heart rate and breathing and offer a sense of euphoria. Opioids e.g.  Heroin, Opium, Demerol, selectively depress the CNS, these analgesics reduce pain and tend to induce sleep. Depressants e.g. Alcohol, Barbiturates, Benzodiazepines, decrease the activity of the CNS, they tend to decrease the heart rate and breathing and offer a relaxed, sometimes sleepy, sense of well-being or euphoria. Hallucinogens like Ecstasy, Mushrooms, and LSD produce a spectrum of vivid sensory distortions and markedly cause changes in mood, temper and thought patterns. The above-mentioned classification has been provided for a general guideline, not all drugs fit neatly into four classes, for example, Cannabis and inhalants don’t fit into any of these four classes.

Moreover, studies have demonstrated that women are more sensitive to the consumption and long-term effects of drugs that are men. For example, women who drink are at greater risk than men for developing cirrhosis and other medical problems.

In a nutshell, addiction is both an individual and a family disease. When one of the family members has an addiction problem, the whole family suffers. The social stigma associated with addiction leaves the person and his family nowhere.


Written By:

Rabia Ejaz

Clinical Psychologist,

Neuropsychology Center Pakistan


Edited By:

Mehwish Mursaleen

Senior Clinical Psychologist


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