People can be addicted to a drug in two ways:
- Genuine or Medical Addiction is when your body become dependent on that drug in order to work properly. For example nicotine affects the way your brain works so that it becomes harder to concentrate or relax without it. Heroin has a similar effect on the nervous system meaning that addicts who don’t keep taking it can experience real physical pain and other problems with bodily systems not working properly.
- Social Addiction is not really addiction. It just means that people get into the habit of taking a certain drug. A person might want a cup of coffee because they always have one at that time or it’s ‘what they do’ when they chat to a friend. While it might feel strange not to have it, no actual harm will come to you if you do not.
The effects of Drugs on Mind and Body
Many drugs can have medical effects on your mind and body. That is, taking them (especially in large doses or for prolonged periods of time) can have the following effects:
- Effects on the body. Often this can be damage to organs caused directly by the chemicals in those drugs (for example some legal painkillers, like paracetamol, can destroy your liver with only a small overdose as your liver struggles to break down the chemicals that are in it). Other drugs cause indirect damage, such as ecstasy which causes dehydration. In turn, the dehydration can cause damage to organs which need water to work properly. If they don’t have enough water they can shut down or be permanently affected. Often it is these secondary effects that are the most obvious, as skin or eyes begin to change colour or even break down all together, as with famous images of drug users on crystal meth.
- Effects on the mind. These can be both short and long term. People often make poor decisions while under the influence of drugs, such as sleeping with someone else while drunk when they might not have done while sober, or simply thinking they can perform a task better when ‘high’ which of often the case with cocaine users. These effects are illusionary. Human beings do not perform better under the influence of drugs! There are also long term effects, such as the possible link between amphetamine or cannabis use and schizophrenia.
Many religions object to drug use for these two reasons: that they deliberately harm the body that God has given you or that they render you incapable of making good choices or achieving spiritual progress.
Why Do People become Addicted?
Some people are more prone to addiction than others. For example, if you have a family history of alcoholism you might be more at risk of addiction than someone else. However, it is not clear if this is genetic disposition or learned behaviour.
With some drugs, such as heroin, taking it even once can be enough to become chemically addicted. People take drugs in the first place for a number of reasons:
- They might take them to enjoy a night out more;
- They may have progressed from legal drugs, like alcohol;
- Peer Pressure – their friends get them into it;
- Role models in business or on TV can make it seem attractive;
- They might take it to deal with issues in their own lives, like depression or low self-esteem.
PDF on Darren’s Story