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The Science Behind Addiction: Race, Equity & Inclusion

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Addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use or difficult to control, in spite of harmful outcomes. The science behind addiction and risk of addiction makes a person deprived of his consciousness thus taking control from their hands.

Illegal and even some legal drugs can be harmful to your body and may make you dependent on them which ultimately leads to addiction. Drug addiction is a major problem throughout the country and brings a wide range of long term negative effects on the body including health conditions affecting the quality of life of millions of people every single day. The latest statistics from, The Journal of the American Medical Association, shows that in the United States, 8–10% of people age 12 and older are addicted to alcohol or other drugs. This roughly makes up an alarming 14 million of the total social community.

 

Why Do People Get Addicted to Drugs?

Most people take drugs voluntarily at the start to feel pleasure, but repeated drug consumption, often in heavy amounts, can cause brain response that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and control their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs. However, the science behind addiction says that a person with drug addiction cannot help their alcohol use disorder despite knowing that it’s harmful to their health and is poorly affecting the quality of their life.

The human brain is wired to reward us when we indulge in pleasurable behaviors like exercising, eating, and other activities that trigger the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine, an emotional response. This makes us feel happy and encourages us to do more of it, thus teaching the brain to repeat the behavior and entirely ignore the risk factors.Drugs trigger this exact part of the brain and affect the brain’s “reward circuit,” causing euphoria, but to an extreme extent with negative consequences.

Drug consumption causes the brain to release extreme amounts of dopamine. The brain overreacts, decreasing dopamine production trying to normalize these unexpected, extremely high levels the drugs have created resulting in harmful consequences. And this is how the cycle of addiction begins.

 

Drug Addiction Psychology

Once someone becomes addicted and their brain has been altered by drug use, they don’t use drugs to feel good, they take drugs to feel normal. The brain requires more and more drugs just to function at a standard level. Despite being aware of the harmful outcomes of substance use disorder continue taking them due to the surges of dopamine in the reward circuit that cause the reinforcement of pleasurable but unhealthy activities. Science behind addiction is a complex and long-lasting disease, and quitting it is not as easy as for many other things. It usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will due to the changes in the brain chemistry caused by chemical drugs.

Long-term drug addiction can attempt to affect the brain’s functions like:

  • Learning
  • Judgment
  • Decision-making
  • Stress/ depression/ anxiety
  • Memory
  • Behavioral changes
  • Relationships and personal interactions

 

How is Drug Addiction Different for Different Races?

There is no single factor that can predict if a person will become addicted to illicit drugs or not. A combination of genetic, environmental, and developmental factors influence the risk for drug addiction. Often the poor neighborhoods report an increased drug addiction among their population.

The epidemic of drug addiction in the United States has not spared its racial/ethnic minority populations, rather there often exists an excess risk. In 2019, African Americans were almost two times more likely to die of a drug overdose than whites while American Indians were seven times more likely to die of a drug overdose than whites. Factors like systemic racism have prevented communities of color and different races from having equal access to health resources. Poverty, intergenerational trauma, and intergenerational substance abuse disorder make these communities more vulnerable to develop a Science behind addiction.

Widespread public health initiatives that provide equity and inclusion at every stage of life can reduce health disparities and have positive outcomes on the quality of life for all the citizens of the US. It is imperatively time to take steps to protect the marginalized communities of the state and spread awareness.

 

Can Drug Addiction Be Cured or Prevented?

Drug addiction is considered a “relapsing” disease which means that people who are recovering from an addiction will be at risk for relapse or moral failing even after years of not taking the drug. However, recovery from addiction and physical dependence can be managed and treated successfully with proper medication and specialized treatments under medical supervision at a long-term recovery center.

Signing up at an Addiction treatment center along with behavioral therapy ensure the best chance of success for most patients so that they can regain control of their lives. Treatment approaches may be tailored to each patient’s drug use patterns and any co-occurring medical, mental, a complex disease and social problems. Long term addiction can be quit with the help of medical professionals and the support of family/ friends. Quitting drugs is not a matter of strong will, rather it has more to do with your brain rewiring.

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