How Can We Prevent Drug Misuse?

The issue of drug misuse that can so easily lead to addiction is one of the most significant problems in the United States. Most of the country is aware of the opioid epidemic that began in the mid-2000s and is still causing addiction and accidental overdose today. Yet, at the heart of the matter is why certain people misuse drugs and what can be done to help them. Fortunately, science has made remarkable advancements to understand how drugs affect the brain and what people are after when they take drugs. 

Drug Use and Addiction as a Brain Disease

The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that drug use and addiction is, in fact, a brain disease. Neurological scientists have identified what is known as the reward pathway, also called the reward circuit in the brain. When someone uses certain drugs, it will stimulate the brain to release pleasure-causing chemicals, which are the reward. Over time and with drug misuse, the brain adapts to the presence of drugs. Without continued use of drugs, the reward circuit does not release as many feel-good chemicals. 

Most drugs affect the brain’s “reward circuit,” causing euphoria as well as flooding it with the chemical messenger dopamine. Surges of dopamine in the reward circuit cause the reinforcement of pleasurable but unhealthy behaviors like taking drugs. As a person continues to use drugs, the brain adapts by reducing the ability of cells in the reward circuit to respond to it. The brain adapts and will often lead the person to become less and less able to derive pleasure from other things they once enjoyed, like food, sex, or social activities. (NIDA
How Can We Prevent Drug Misuse?

What’s the Difference Between Drug Misuse and Drug Addiction?

Drug misuse and addiction are different. Addiction is a complex disease of the mind and the emotions that stand from multiple influencers. Drug misuse is not a disease but can cause a person who might be likely to develop an addiction to get addicted. The influencers that cause someone to become a drug addict only need drug misuse to occur for the disease to be activated, so to speak.

Knowing what influencers drive addiction is vital to protect yourself, or your family members who may have experienced the following, which research has confirmed is a precursor to the development of addiction:

  • Family history of drug addiction and or alcoholism
  • Environmental influence (presence of drug use in the home, or friends who use drugs, as well as neighborhood/or community presence of drug use)
  • History of trauma, abuse, or neglect
  • Diagnosed or undiagnosed emotional or mental health disorders

How Can We Prevent Drug Misuse?

If a person does have any of the influencers documented that lead to addictions, they run a considerable risk when they misuse drugs or alcohol. Therefore, one way to prevent drug misuse that can lead to a devastating addiction is to stop trying drugs or alcohol. Many people know that they cannot drink alcohol or take drugs like other people because they have a family history of addiction and therefore don’t. Others might not misuse drugs but fall victim to a behavioral addiction such as gambling, gaming, sex, shopping, etc. 

Unfortunately, the problem of drug misuse is not improving, and much of the country is struggling with addiction. Today the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that in 2019 there are millions of people struggling with a substance use disorder. SUD is the more definitive identification of drug misuse and drug addiction. 

SAMHSA 2019 substance use disorder risks and percentages: Among the 20.4 million people aged 12 or older with a past year SUD in 2019, 14.5 million people had a past-year alcohol use disorder, 8.3 million people had a past year illicit drug use disorder, and 2.4 million people had both an alcohol use disorder and an illicit drug use disorder in the past year. (SAMHSA

What Help Is Available for Drug Misuse and Addiction

The good news is that drug misuse and drug addiction treatment programs help someone to stop using drugs. Evidence-based forms of therapy, including pharmacotherapies and behavioral therapies, allow a person to heal trauma or get help for mental health or emotional health diagnosis so they won’t desire to take drugs. Evidence-based treatment combined with individual counseling, group counseling, holistic therapy, and personalized treatment planning is the mainstay of the professional help that works. 

Overcome Drug Dependence at Connecticut Addiction Resources

Getting help for an addiction to drugs or alcohol or both is easier than it used to be. The first step is to call, chat or email our specialist, who will provide access and information about the type of counseling program you may need. Do not ignore drug misuse, as it can and will most often lead to drug addictions or other behavioral addictions, and we can help right now. 


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