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First off, how do drugs work in the first place? Our brain has a particular section called the nucleus accumbens, or “reward center” that plays a chief role in controlling two very important neurotransmitters: dopamine, which promotes desire, and serotonin. A neurotransmitter is a chemical that is released from a nerve cell which thereby transmits an impulse from a nerve cell to another nerve, muscle, organ, or tissue; basically they are a way for our body to communicate. The nucleus accumbens is nicknamed the reward center because it makes our brain and body feel good when we do an action that is good for the health of our body.
The primary neurotransmitter associated with addiction is dopamine. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter often known as the “feel-good hormone” because of its association with feelings like euphoria, bliss, motivation, and concentration.
Heroin and other addictive drugs are the jackpot of dopamine, so when you intake large amounts of these substances, it tricks your body into thinking the reward is even better.
And when you get one taste of any rewarding feeling, who wouldn’t want more? Drugs don’t just change the way your mind feels, they alter the way you act, think, and go about your everyday life. Drugs have a very strong negative effect on one area of the cerebral cortex called the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex deals mainly with functions like language, spatial learning, conscious thought, judgment, and decision making; it helps us make rational, sound decisions. When this part of the brain is messed with, it can make you do impulsive, harmful things that you otherwise wouldn’t do in a conscious, sober mind.
Additionally, an overuse of drugs can actually cause you to become physically dependent on them. When you have been on drugs for a substantially long time, coming off them puts you through a process called withdrawal. Withdrawal is when your body is robbed of the “fake” emotions the drugs provided for your body, and puts the recovering person in an immense amount of pain. More serious withdrawal can even cause breathing problems, irregular heart rate, and seizures. One very relatable example of minor withdrawal is when you forget to have your routine morning coffee, and get a headache. Imagine that feeling but fifty times worse; that’s how withdrawal from dopamine producing drugs feels like. Nobody wants to go through this kind of pain, especially right after experiencing such euphoria and lightness. And that’s why even though people try to get off drugs, the pain they have to go through to get their, makes them turn back and eventually become dependent on the substances. Amphetamines are a very prevalent type of drug in today’s society. Not only because they have one of the most heightened and extreme effects on the brain but also because of their medical availability. Stimulant drugs like amphetamines make messages between the brain and body go faster. And generally, that makes a person much more alert and active whenever they are on those drugs. Amphetamines also produce a lot of dopamine, and produce emotions like joy, clear thinking, control, and energy. Some specific types of street and prescribed amphetamines are amphetamine, dextroamphetamine, and methamphetamine.
Amphetamines have a lot of benefits to the human mind, so evidently, they will have various uses. Students play a major factor in amphetamine use. Because amphetamines enhance alertness and awakeness, students find them very useful in studying up late at night. The same reason applies to people on high pressure jobs. Sports is also a potential reason to use amphetamines, especially if a player is lacking in some sort of energy or alertness. Because amphetamines have an infinite amount of uses in every path of life, they are very addictive; this is just because they make our lives so much easier, and the human race takes any opportunity to be more lazy. When amphetamines are prescribed, and not taken for a users benefit, they help many live with conditions like ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and narcolepsy (a sleep disorder that causes overwhelming daytime drowsiness). Like any drug, amphetamines have more negatives than they do positives. Over time, the effects of amphetamines become increasingly problematic.
There are a long list of effects related to amphetamines. Aggression, violent behavior, or hostility are common effects from any type of drug. Emotional numbing with sadness, fatigue, and social withdrawal, convulsions, weight loss, heart problems, memory loss, sleep problems and death are some additional symptoms of long-term amphetamine use. Eventually, major substance abuse can lead to something called tolerance. Tolerance is when you have already taken so much of a drug, that your body no longer reacts to small amounts of it. Therefore, the more you take, the more you will crave, and need to take in the future, if you want the drug to have the same powerful effect as before. Tolerance is a main component in what drives long-term addiction, and sometimes even overdose. The topic of Addiction v.s. Dependance has spurred major debate between people in the last few years. Some think that they are the same thing, just one term sounds better than the other. Many also think that dependence might cause addiction; and others think they are two seperate things that have no connection besides the fact that they both deal with drugs. But what is the difference between addiction and dependence? Addiction is when someone willingly takes drugs because it makes them feel good, and uplifts them in a way nothing else can. Dependence is when someone is taking, or used to take, drugs for medical reasons (such as a pain reliever from major surgery or treatment for a disease).
But dependence means that the person essentially cannot live without the drug, or might even be taking it after it is not necessary. One argument that is particularly interesting is the one that claims prescription drugs might just be a spark for many future addicts. What that means is that some doctors actually prescribe unnecessary medication for their patients, just as a sort of comfort or cushion. And when a person takes a drug that is not actually helping them in any way, it just makes them feel good, or “high”. They keep taking it over and over again, but don’t feel like they’re doing something wrong because the drugs they are taking are prescribed. This can often lead to prescribed drug abuse, which is just another way of saying addiction to prescribed drugs. Based on that, I do think that some prescription drugs do lead to dependence, and eventually, addiction. There’s no denying that some people do actually live by their daily pills, but that kind of dependence is worlds away from the kind that causes addiction. Drug addiction is an easily preventable problem, but enough action is not taken to stop this epidemic. I can think of so many easy solutions to prevent further addiction. Identify and crack down on prescribers who are providing large quantities of narcotics in so-called pill mills. Employ TV, radio and social media to educate families about drug-abuse prevention. Make problem drug and alcohol use screening a standard of care.
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