In medical terms, a drug is any substance that when taken into a living organism may modify one or more of its functions. Drugs can provide temporary relief from unhealthy symptoms and or permanently supply the body with a necessary substance the body can no longer make. Some drugs produce unwanted side effects. Some drugs lead to an unhealthy dependency that has both physiological and behavioural roots.
How Do Drugs Affect the Mind?
The mind is our most important tool. With our mind, we solve the problems we face in life. Drugs do several things that harm one’s ability to think or to be fully aware of the present surroundings. These effects continue long after the effects of the drug appear to have worn off.
Addictive drugs activate the brain’s reward system. The promise of reward is very intense, causing the individual to crave the drug and to focus his or her activities on getting and taking the drug.
The ability of addictive drugs to strongly activate brain reward mechanisms and their ability to chemically alter the normal functioning of these systems can produce an addiction.
Drugs also reduce a person’s level of consciousness, impairing the ability to think or be fully aware of present surroundings. The drug taker is not moving in the same series of events as others. This can be slight, wherein the person is seen to make occasional mistakes, or it can be as serious as total insanity – where the events apparent to him are completely different from those apparent to anyone else, and it can be all grades in between. It isn’t that the drug user doesn’t know what’s going on. It is that he perceives something else going on instead of the actual series of events that are happening around him.
Drug Addiction Follows a Cycle Like This:
The life cycle of addiction begins with a problem, discomfort or some form of emotional or physical pain a person is experiencing. They find this very difficult to deal with. We start off with an individual who, like most people in our society is basically good. This person encounters a problem or discomfort that they do not know how to resolve or cannot confront.
This could include problems such as difficulty “fitting in” as a child or teenager, anxiety due to peer pressure or work expectations, identity problems or divorce as an adult. It can also include physical discomfort, such as an injury or chronic pain. The person experiencing the discomfort has a real problem. He feels his present situation is unendurable, yet sees no good solution to the problem. Everyone has experienced this in their life to a greater or lesser degree. The difference between an addict and the non-addict is that the addict chooses drugs or alcohol as a solution to the unwanted problem or discomfort.
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Mthandazo Ndlovu is a Drug Rehabilitation Specialist, Accredited Addictions Counsellor, Accredited Adolescent Counsellor, Accredited Professional Counsellor.