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When Does Drug Abuse Become Addiction?

When drug use turns to full-blown addiction and dependence, it can be difficult to pinpoint a time before it became a problem. But all addiction begins somewhere, and usually, that place can be referred to as “drug abuse.”

What is drug abuse?

The University of Maryland Medical Center defines drug abuse as “the recurrent use of illegal drugs, or the misuse of prescription or over-the-counter drugs with negative consequences.” These consequences can range from relationship problems to legal problems or medical problems.

How does drug abuse become an addiction?

When this pattern of use and consequences continues over and over, it is likely that the person has developed an addiction, which the National Institute on Drug Abuse defines as “a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.”

The reason an addiction is referred to as a brain disease is that it greatly affects the brain and the brain’s structure. When certain drugs are introduced to the system, they excite the parts of the brain that release chemicals which make the body feel pleasure. As time passes, it takes more and more of the same substance to release these chemicals because the brain becomes accustomed to the presence of the drug.

According to, “As a substance abuser continues to take the drug, the brain will become exhausted by the surges of dopamine and begin producing less and less of its own as a result. This chemical response to the drug being repeatedly introduced into the body produces physical dependency on the drug due to the now exacerbated dopamine deficiency.”

In other words, the addict will begin using more of the substance to achieve the feelings of euphoria they may have reached with less of the drug prior. It becomes necessary to have the substance in the body’s system. Without it, the body goes through uncomfortable withdrawals, which is often why addicts will return to using.

What factors affect drug abuse and addiction?

Though it’s true that some people have a predisposition to drug abuse and addiction, certain factors in a person’s life may also impact their likeliness to develop an addiction stemming from drug abuse.

One of the largest contributing factors to addiction is home life. If someone grew up in a home where drugs or alcohol were often used, grew up in an unhappy home or was abused, the risk of addiction increases.

Those with mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, are also at greater risk of developing an addiction. They may use drugs or alcohol to cover up their insecurities until they find themselves drinking or constantly using to hide from their life.

Additional risk factors include trouble in school and relationships, spending time with people who use drugs and starting drug use at a young age.

Which drugs are most addictive when abused?

When it comes to drugs, prescription drugs and street drugs can be equally addictive and dangerous. According to, the ten most addictive drugs are a mixture of legal and illegal substances. The list includes gamma hydroxybutyrate (also known as the date rape drug), benzodiazepines, amphetamines, cocaine, alcohol, meth, methadone, nicotine, crack, and heroin.

What should you do if you suspect drug abuse or addiction?

First and foremost, seek help as soon as you think you or a loved one have developed a drug addiction. The earlier on help is sought, the more likely overcoming the addiction is. Do your research, and reach out to a treatment facility that best fit your needs or your loved one’s needs. If you feel you’re ready to begin your journey, reach out today. Call The Recovery Village at 866.752.0592 .

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When Does Drug Abuse Become Addiction?
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September 2nd 2016 | By: The Recovery Village | Posted In: Substance Abuse