What is Drug Addiction?

If someone you love is suffering from drug addiction, empowering yourself with knowledge and information is so important. When you understand an addict and the science of addiction, you’re better equipped to help that person, and you’ll also be able to better cope with what happens to you as well.

First, understanding drug addiction itself is essential. Too often people don’t truly understand addiction, so they either believe the addict is a bad person, or they blame themselves for the problem.

What is drug addiction? Most people don’t understand that drug addiction is a chronic disease. While the addicted person may have made a choice to initially use drugs, the drugs then change their brain and trigger compulsive drug abuse. Drug addiction may have social components, but it’s not exclusively a social problem. Loved ones can become frustrated because they feel like the addict should simply be able to stop using, but how to understand a drug addict is to know that this isn’t the case.

Drug addiction is multi-faceted and complex, and understanding an addict requires looking at how drugs work in the brain.

Once someone takes drugs, their brain compulsively continues to seek out these substances regardless of negative consequences. The changes that happen in their brain alter its structure and function, and over time an addict’s self-control and decision-making abilities are affected a great deal.

Knowing these things about the use of drugs is so important to understanding a drug addict.

While addiction is a chronic disease of the brain, there are options available to addicts. Usually, the most effective treatment options are therapy and rehab combined with certain medications. It requires a lot of hard work to recover from drug addiction and take back control over your thoughts, your body, and your brain.

Simply by knowing these facts, you’re already closer to learning how to understand a drug addict.

Negative Behavior and Drug Addiction

When you love someone and you’re struggling with how to understand a drug addict, it can be easy to think that the bad behaviors the addict is exhibiting are because of character flaws, or to take them personally.

However, when working to understand an addict you have to know that logical thinking and reasoning aren’t happening in their brain. Their thinking is fully guided by their addiction, and they may be completely out of touch with reality as a result. Understanding an addict relies on knowing that they aren’t acting in negative ways because they want to, but instead they are doing so because of the changes in their brain.

The majority of drugs including opioids impact dopamine which regulates everything from motivation to emotion. Ultimately the effects of the drugs lead to different behaviors and thought processes than that person had before they began using drugs.

So, what to take away from this is that all of the signs, symptoms, and behaviors of drug addiction aren’t something that the addict wants to do, or even realizes they’re doing. For example, lying and manipulation are two of the biggest signs of drug addiction, but these are in the brain of an addict a survival mechanism. Their ability to lie and deceive is how they feel they’re going to be able to continue fueling their addiction.

Many of the behaviors of a drug addict are also justified in their mind. They may think that it’s the people around them who are a problem and that they are only doing what they need to.

Projection is also one of the main addiction behaviors that is important to know about when learning how to understand a drug addict. Addicts will often project their negative emotions onto others rather than accepting responsibility.

Most of the behaviors of an addict that you may be trying so hard to understand feel like survival tactics to the addict. They feel like they’re doing what they have to do to survive, whether it’s avoiding reality and denying a problem, lying or stealing to get more drugs, or continuing to preserve their addiction through illogical thinking and justifications.

Understanding a drug addict is difficult for people who have never experienced it, but having some grasp on the facts of this disease can help you more effectively deal with an addict in your life.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.