Addiction Essay, Research Paper
In order to fully understand this question it is important to define exactly what is meant by the key terms used; the Oxford English Popular English Dictionary (Parragon, Oxford 1995) defines ‘abuse´ as; ‘To make bad or wrong use of; to maltreat´, and it defines ‘addiction´ as the condition of doing or using something as a habit or compulsively (esp. of drug taking, with adverse effects on ceasing) devotion to an interest.
During this essay I hope to show how drugs alter the way the brain works, and the way it perceives situation. I hope to show the consequences of drug use and abuse and also to show what research is being undertaken in an attempt to alleviate these problems.
Recently we have seen a huge increase in the use of legal and illegal drugs in our society as some have been used for legitimate purposes, others have also been seriously misused- this misuse can be defined as drug abuse and addiction this addiction encores both psychological and physiological addition, and drug abuse often leads to this addiction.
As an example of a drug which can be abused I shall look at Cocaine. Cocaine is a white powder refined from the coca plant, which grows in South America, it is a short acting stimulant which quickly reaches the brain and it produces effects such as talkativeness, excess confidence increased appetite and euphoria. As these effects only last around thirty minutes the user feels they need more in order to overcome the effects received on a ‘come down´. These include paranoia and irritability. Regular users suffer poor sleeping patterns the feeling of not being able to cope without the drug. So how are these effects caused? Alcohol, cocaine, nicotine even caffeine are just some of the drugs which can lead to addition and abuse. All of these cause their effects through the brain, mostly it is the brain´s ‘reward system´ where the effects begin. The network of neurons is activated when we perform the daily activities which help to keep us alive – such as eating, the brain provides a ‘reward´ associated with pleasurable feelings so encouraging us to repeat these actions. Drugs also stimulate this system but often produce effects far in excess of these received from natural daily functions, so the influence of these drugs on the brain encourages the user to repeat drug use.
Findings indicate that there are two or more receptor sites which meditate the effects of the drugs, one site meditates the euphoria, while the other mediates pain killing. Different drugs mimic the effects of brain neurotransmitters at synaptic receptors. Opiates such as heroine or morphine mimic the opioids such as endorphins or enkephalins, nicotine mimics acetylcholine, cannabis mimics endocannabinoids and amphetamine/cocaine mimics dopamine/norepinephrine.
In the 1950s researchers Olds and Milner (1954) produced experiments on intracranial self stimulation (ICSS) here they discovered that under certain circumstances rats would dismiss the pleasure of water, food or sexual partners in order to keep an area of the brain over stimulated by an electrode, this is how the reward centre got its name. This ‘centre´ got the name ‘circuit´ when researchers found that linked brain locations are involved in pleasure. The circuit includes a set of neurons found in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) which connect to the nucleus accumbens and to other areas such as the prefrontal cortex.
Some neuroscientists now are studying the molecular mechanisms that drugs alter within the circuit, they study the way that dopamine is produced and how its messages are received (Dopamine is a chemical messenger), they believe that drug´s influence on these mechanisms eventually change the way neurons within the system act.
Simply put drugs and ICCS block the biological reward pathways, drugs provide a rapid intense reward not found within day to day realms, normal rewards get replaced by the need to get the high produced form the acquisition of the drug. The rate at which this motivational toxicity develops depends on the type of drug, the way that it is administered and its psychological impact. (Pleasure and Addiction – Dr Tim Kirkham 2001)
So the life of the addict becomes centred around receiving more drugs, so behavioural patters can be produced which would not normally be seen in an individual free of these craving, such as steeling and manipulation in the case of women – sometimes prostitution. We cannot also ignore the risks associated with taking these drugs, poor diet often leads to ill health and increased susceptibility to ailments. Unsterile equipment used for taking or injecting the drugs leaves the user more open to catching such diseases as hepatitis or HIV, and without proper regulations centring around those of these drugs a risk can be formed surrounding the question of the purity of the drugs themselves which could lead to overdose. If a heroin user overdoses, respiration is slowed, which causes coma, and eventually death.
Addiction is more associated, however with a general deterioration of health and personality.
There are many factors set to encourage an individual to take narcotic in the first place, relating to stress, personal problems or problems at work even sociocultural conditions. Narcotic dependency seems to be centred around an antisocial personality and other psychopathology.
Chinlund (1969) studied the use of narcotics by women, he studied women in New York for a period of seven years and found that that the user has three main goals; 1) A conscious wish to lose control of the drug usage so that she can blame her failures on the drug. 2) To blot out all sense of time, so that she can hide from things happening in her frustrating life situation. And 3) The need to deny cause and effect relationships in her life such as the relationship between sexual intercourse and pregnancy. ( Abnormal Psychology and Modern life- p440 – James Coleman – 1976) Drugs are often turned to as a means of alleviating anxiety and coping with problems caused by stress, until these principal issues are dealt with in our society there will always be drug usage and drug abuse.
Aldous Huxley remarked;
‘ that humanity at large will ever be able to dispense with artificial paradises seems very unlikely. Most men and women lead lives which at worse so painful, at the best so monotonous, poor and limited that the urge to escape, the longing to transcend themselves if only for a few minutes, is and always has been one of the principle appetites of the soul.’
This is a view shared by many people, who seem that drug usage does not always lead to addiction, and indeed, even if it does lead to addiction, that addiction, does not always bring about the demise of the person both physically and socially of it is able to be controlled. However although attitudes are changing towards drug usage, especially among the more affluent, we can still see the devastation drug addiction can cause, especially as those who feel the need to use drugs are generally of the frame of mind which leaves them more susceptible to their consequences.
Scientists are now searching for ways to block some drugs from producing their effect on the brain. Cocaine works by blocking a pump which regulates dopamine´s messaging. It is hoped that new drugs will attach to the transporter and make it ignore the cocaine but continue with its regular functioning, this appears be working with rats and the treatment is now being tested in humans.