What is drug addiction?
Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long lasting and can lead to many harmful, often self-destructive, behaviors.
Why study drug abuse and addiction?
Abuse of and addiction to alcohol, nicotine, and illegal substances cost Americans upwards of half a trillion dollars a year (the combined medical, economic, criminal, and social impact). Every year, the abuse of illicit drugs and alcohol contributes to the death of more than 100,000 Americans, while tobacco is linked to an estimated 440,000 deaths per year.
How are drug disorders categorized?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a diagnostic manual used by clinicians, that contains descriptions and symptoms of all mental disorders classified by the American Psychiatric Association. The DSM uses the term “substance use disorders” to characterize illnesses associated with drug use. There are two broad categories: substance abuse and substance dependence. Both are associated with a maladaptive pattern of substance use that leads to clinically significant impairment. Drug abuse includes such symptoms as:
- failure to fulfill major role obligations;
- legal problems;
- use in situations that are physically hazardous; and
- continued use despite persistent social or interpersonal problems.
The term dependence includes such symptoms as:
- drug taking in larger amounts than intended;
- inability to cut down on drug use;
- a great deal of time spent in activities necessary to obtain the drug; and
- continued use despite knowledge of health or social problems caused by the drug.
Dependence may or may not include “physical dependence,” defined by withdrawal symptoms when drug use is abruptly ceased, and “tolerance,” the need for more drug to achieve a desired effect. The DSM term “dependence” is what NIDA refers to as “addiction.”
What is the difference between “physical dependence,” dependence, and addiction?
Physical dependence is not equivalent to dependence or addiction and may occur with the chronic use of any substance, legal or illegal, even when taken as prescribed. It occurs because the body naturally adapts to chronic exposure to a substance (e.g., caffeine or a prescription drug), and when that substance is taken away, symptoms can emerge while the body readjusts to the loss of the substance. Physical dependence can lead to craving for the drug to relieve the withdrawal symptoms. Drug dependence and addiction refer to drug or substance use disorders, which may include physical dependence but must also meet additional criteria.
read more from the text source (drugabuse.gov)
photos from ‘Inside a Romanian Drug House’ photo issue of Time Magazine