Addiction almost always starts with the casual use of any psychoactive substance, particularly, addictive drugs. It is not uncommon to encounter a situation in which an individual decides to try a drug – say, cocaine – once just so he knows what it’s like to use it. He discovers the pleasures derived from the use of the drug so he continues to take it for the next couple of weeks until he realizes the negative repercussions of the act. He decides, for his sake, to stop using the drug altogether but is unsuccessful. Instead of staying away from the drug, his brain tells him to keep using it as it has become dependent on the euphoria that it brings.
The issue progresses until the individual is addicted – constantly feeling a compulsion to take drugs to function normally.
Hardly can one ever find an instance where in an individual consciously decides to become a drug addict. After all, everyone is aware of the negative consequence of drug abuse. The only conscious decision coming from a person is in becoming an occasional user who believes that he can control the habit. Over time, however, he will start to experience a compulsion that is beyond his conscious control. This is primarily due to the drug’s effects on the brain.
According to the Alan Leshner Ph.D of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, “drug addiction is a brain disease.” Each drug has a different effect on the brain but the results are practically the same in that the substance causes the individual to develop a dependency on the habit. The individual, on the onset, doesn’t really intend to be an addict but that is what he ended up as just the same. Leshner calls this scenario the ‘oops phenomenon.’ Researchers have yet to identify what drives the brain to make the individual develop this phenomenon. However, studies show that the long-term use of drugs will eventually lead to dependence on it.
While it is established that drug addiction is indeed a brain disease, this is not to say that addicts are free from accountability. They should not be considered unwitting victims as this was brought on by incorrect choices in the first place. The challenge on drug users is to follow their prescribed addiction treatment religiously if they are to have a fighting chance of recovering from the illness.
Hence, the challenge is to find a way to reconcile the biological and behavioral determinants of the oops phenomenon. It is but logical give both areas ample attention in order to attain a deeper comprehension of this illness. Just as with any other brain disease, the behavioral component of drug addiction shouldn’t be left out. What sets this particular condition apart from other brain illnesses such as stroke and Alzheimer’s disease is that addiction starts as a voluntary behavior. But that is just about where the differences stop and the similarities begin.
A better understanding of drug addiction should ideally lead to more effective treatments to address both the illness and the possibility of relapse. Just like any other disorder, addicts are still prone to this condition and medications should still be developed for sustainable sobriety.