Drug Addiction, Brains and PSA

What is drug addiction?

I was a little surprised to learn that addiction is a long-lasting brain disease. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain—and how the brain works. These  changes can last a long time. Yikes.

Addiction is a lot like other diseases, such as heart disease. Both get in the way of  healthy functioning and have serious bad results.   The good news is that, they are both preventable and treatable.  The bad news is that, left untreated, both can last a lifetime.

Why doesn’t everyone who is exposed to drugs become addicted?

People use alcohol and other drugs for many reasons. Some use these them to chill out, to feel more comfortable or to celebrate. You can’t get hooked from using a drug once. But some people who try drugs go on to take more and more, and become addicted as a result. Others don’t.  I was one of those people who never had a chance. I can’t recall ever using a mind-altering “anything” in a controlled and responsible way. 

Scientists now know that there are risk factors. These include your family history, what kind of neighborhood you live in, what kind of school you attend(ed), and what kinds of people you hang around with. These same things can also protect you from “getting the disease”. One another personal note, I was adopted and did not know my family history until I was in my early 20’s.  Most all of my biological family suffers from some form of addiction.


It is very common to blame addiction on a person’s willpower or morals, saying addiction is a lifestyle choice that reflects a bad person.  From my experience, I can tell you that I have lots of willpower over many things, but never over my drug use. This does not mean that I am not responsible for my behavior. Just the opposite, I need to make restitution for all the harm I have done, especially under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Drug Brain
“This is your brain on drugs” just got a whole new meaning.

Is continued drug abuse a voluntary behavior?

Yes, the initial decision to take drugs is typically voluntary. However, with continued use, a person’s ability to make good choices can become seriously impaired.  This impairment in self-control is the keystone of addiction. Brain imaging studies of people with addiction show physical changes in areas of the brain that control judgement. Scientists believe that these changes  may help explain the  destructive behaviors of addiction.


You may think you know what addiction is—lots of people have many different opinions about addiction and different ways of defining it. Here are some myths you may have heard:

  • Getting over addiction to drugs is a choice.
  • In order for treatment to work, the person has to hit “rock bottom.”
  • People have to choose to get treatment or it won’t be
    effective, such as when a judge sends a person to a treatment facility instead of jail.
Do you need help?

Have friends or family told you that you are behaving differently? Are you withdrawn, tired, depressed, or hostile? You should  tell yourself the truth.  You may have start developing a drug-related problem.

Asking for help early, when you first suspect you have a problem, is important! Don’t wait to become addicted before you seek help. If you think you have a problem, there is treatment that can work. Don’t wait another minute to ask for help.

Our 800RecoveryHub site offers free and confidential help

If you have an hour, this is a good educational video on drugs.


2 thoughts on “Drug Addiction, Brains and PSA

  1. Reposted. Thanks. That I have a disease and I’m not suddenly cured after X amount of time clean is the hardest part for me to accept. Took me a couple of relapses and I’m only just realising it. I hate almost every time I drink or take drugs, yet I still think about it every day, every hour some days. I used to think that calling addiction a disease was bullshit, and I was weak and useless with no self-control, but it’s pretty obvious to me now there’s no other way to describe it. Glad I’m getting ‘treatment’ and in recovery 🙂


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