Why Are Drugs So Addictive?

Man suffering from addiction feels depressed

Dane O'Leary December 11, 2020

To understand drug addiction, you first must grasp the power of chemical dependence.

Chemical dependence is when the body has begun to adjust to the drug. As it gets used to the substance and adapts to it, the body needs more and more to get high. And as you take more and more, the drug’s deadly side effects worsen. Paranoia from meth. Malnutrition from crack cocaine. Sickness from heroin. All while making you want more and more of the drug.

But what is happening in the brain to cause these intense urges and cravings? To provide you with a better understanding of this slippery slope, we’re going to answer one very important question…

Why are drugs addictive?

Understanding Chemical Dependence

Chemical dependence is a serious health condition. Because when you are dependent, you must escalate the amount of a drug or alcohol you consume to achieve the desired effects. Even if the goal isn’t to get high, you need to imbibe just to keep withdrawal at bay.

When a drug or alcohol problem gets this bad, it’s time for treatment. For the chemically dependent, detox in a hospital prevents dangerous withdrawals. The hospital can treat withdrawal symptoms with medications.

You can be psychologically addicted to using a drug without being chemically dependent. Ideally, that’s the best time to get help – before addiction requires detox in a hospital.

Why Are Drugs Addictive?

The human body is a complex and resilient machine. For early humans, the pressures of inhospitable environments pushed their bodies to develop traits that would help them to survive or even to thrive. Due to the different diets, terrain, and temperatures that they experienced, early peoples evolved to be quite diverse in their skin color, body types, and even their behavior. Many of these adaptations persist in humanity even today.

You might be wondering how this is relevant to chemical addiction. As it turns out, the process of becoming addicted mimics our evolutionary history, just on a smaller, shorter scale.

After a person introduces a mind-altering substance into the body, the brain releases a flood of neurotransmitters, which trigger feelings of euphoria and happiness. If it’s just a one-time occurrence, then the brain simply processes those chemicals so it can return to its normal state.

However, as the substance use becomes more frequent or chronic, the brain adjusts and adapts over time. Recognizing that there’s an often-present substance triggering a flood of neurotransmitters, the brain eventually tapers its own natural production of neurotransmitters and relies on the substance. In short, the brain becomes dependent on the substance to maintain neurochemical balance.

Much like how the brain adjusts to frequent drug use, the brain must also adjust to the absence of the substance. Without the substance, the brain experiences a major deficiency of certain neurotransmitters, resulting in the negative symptoms that, collectively, are referred to as withdrawal.

Note: The safest (and least uncomfortable) way to wean off a substance is with a slow taper under a doctor’s supervision.

What Are the Most Addictive Drugs?

Some of the hardest drugs to kick come from opioids. Many opioid addictions start with a doctor’s pain pill prescription. Then people progress to more powerful, dangerous, and addictive opioids. 

Heroin, fentanyl, and most other prescription painkillers are the most addictive opioids. Additionally, there’s a growing number of synthetic opioids coming out of China, many of which are being added to heroin and causing so many overdose deaths.

In addition to opioids, methamphetamine produces an intense high that is known to hook a person fast. The powerful stimulant creates a euphoria that’s hard to put down.

Perhaps more than any other substance, alcohol is known to be extremely addictive, even more so than methamphetamines. Yet because it’s legally available for purchase and consumption, so many people have found themselves becoming dependent on alcohol.

Face Addiction Head-On at Silicon Beach Treatment Center

Silicon Beach Treatment Center offers several services valuable for anyone looking for Los Angeles recovery. In fact, many people come to Los Angeles for intensive outpatient treatment, which provides patients with daily group sessions and rehabilitative support.

Many people are hesitant about entering inpatient rehab, whether because they believe it will impede their careers, relationships, or other commitments. Like inpatient rehab, our IOP in LA offers daily supervision at the clinic during business hours. The difference is that the client goes home at the end of the day. 

There still is significant accountability in IOP treatment even without inpatient services. In LA, sober living makes stable, long-lasting recovery attainable. Best of all, IOP treatment is effective and affordable.

To learn more, call Silicon Beach Treatment Center today.

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