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Drug Profile: Psychology and Physiology of Addiction

Abused substances and their various effects. Include the following:

- Explain the psychology and physiology of addiction.
- Identify specific drug substances covering the following categories: stimulants, depressants, narcotics, hallucinogens, and cannabis.
- Discuss the addiction potential of various abused substances, what effects they have, and withdrawal symptoms.
- Discuss how prescription drugs can be abused and lead to addiction.

Solution Preview

The psychology of addiction may begin as a high or as an escape, and gives the illusion of being in control; however, the chemistry of the brain may be changed to create a self-harming dependence. What results is a pathological relationship to a mood altering experience that brings about negative, life-damaging consequences. We become addicted to the experience. This allows for the user to become addicted to a wide variety of substances and even experiences. The experience becomes an addiction when the user is unable to cope without the substance or experience and there is interference with the processes of life in favor of continuing the addiction.

It is universal that human beings seek mind, emotion, and behavior altering substances for recreational activities and pleasure-enhancing experiences. This has resulted in a significant number of abuse and addiction cases. The abuse of and addiction to substances involve great costs in terms of individual, interpersonal, social, and economic devastation. The spread of HIV, wars among drug sellers, and escalation in prison budgets exemplify this devastation.

Physiology of addiction:

Each time a drug is self administered, the connections between the act of administration and the feeling of euphoria or 'high' are strengthened. When someone else gives the drug in a different setting, it begins to break the neural connections that created the conditioning. Inhalation and intravenous injection are the fastest way to administer the drug to the brain. Therefore, these routes of administration are more likely to encourage drug abuse than a slower way of administration to the brain, such as orally or transdermal through the skin, which would offer a reduced potential of drug abuse.

Stimulants, even though they are currently a legal, but controlled, drug, pose many dangers that indicate it should be made an illegal drug. Nicotine is the most commonly used stimulant, and while natural tobacco itself does have some cardiovascular health benefits, the chemical additives and fiberglass filters in today's cigarettes pose a grave health threat (Haas, 2004). Categorizing drugs into broad categories such as stimulants and depressants is not always an accurate portrayal of a drug's actual effects because the drug may cause the client to respond differently based on many biological, psychological and social reasons (Ksir et al, 2009).

Depressants, even though they are currently a licit drug, pose many dangers that indicate it should be made an illegal drug. Many are prescribed depressants when the real problem is another underlying concern. Misdiagnosis and subsequent medication are putting many people at risk for developing a substance abuse disorder (Pinel, 2008). A craving can also be mistaken for a withdrawal symptom; as the person comes down from the drug they may become agitated as they feel the physical affects of the withdrawal symptoms and also associate the social environment with these cravings. When these associations are made on a repeated basis, previously neutral stimuli may cause the drug abuser to sense the impending biological changes that come when experiencing withdrawal, causing anxiety (Ksir et al., 2009).

Narcotics, even though they are a licit drug, are very easy to transition from use to abuse to addiction. Painkillers are often the first drug to be abused. The class of drugs known as the opioids are the most powerful medications available for alleviating pain and are the most common reason why people seek medical treatment (Ksir, Hart & Oakley, 2009).

Hallucinogens, while this category does not have any physical addictive properties, can be psychologically addictive (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2000). Research has shown that hallucinogens can be useful for many purposes when used under supervision. There is a renewed interest in using psychedelics as medicine under controlled circumstances (Holland, 2008).

Cannabis is currently legalized in 13 states for medicinal use. Cannabis that is eaten takes several hours for full ...

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