Addiction is a disease characterized by compulsive seeking and use of drugs. It is considered a brain disease because it has a direct effect on it, changing its structure and functioning. In recent years, many genetic and environmental factors have been identified that help us better address the treatment of addictions and reduce their impact on the individual, family and society.
Drugs act on the body by stimulating the circuit that regulates emotion and behavior, creating a perception of pleasure. Prolonged use of a drug creates the so-called ‘tolerance effect’, which implies that increasing doses of the addictive substance is needed to get the same effect. Thus the drugs cause changes in the individual and may lead to progressively worse consequences.
This addictive process can happen with different types of substances, whether legal or illegal. Note that Spain is one of the countries of the European Union with the highest rates of consumption of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and cocaine. In addition, the age of addiction’s onset is becoming younger and younger, fuelled by the perception of low risk by young people. That’s why addiction can also be defined as a developmental disease, since it typically begins in adolescence.
In some cases, genetic factors or the existence of other psychological disorders, such as depression or anxiety, may increase the reinforcing effects of drugs. This combination of addiction and other mental disorders is known as dual diagnosis, and requires specialized treatment.
Why do people take drugs?
Various factors explain the onset of drug use: