Understanding Addiction Essay

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Addiction is regarded by most as a social problem to be solved with social solutions, i.e. incarceration. But, scientific evidence argues otherwise: addiction is a brain disease. “The World Health Organization has defined addiction as ‘A state, psychic and sometimes also physical, resulting in the interaction between a living organism and a drug, characterized by behavioral and other responses that always include a compulsion to take the drug on a continuous or periodic basis in order to experience its psychic effects, and sometimes to avoid the discomfort of its absences. Tolerance may or may not be present’” (4). Interestingly though, this clinical condition has both behavioral and social components that need to be attended to, just …show more content…

A common misconception is that the withdrawal symptoms will be more severe for those drugs that are more highly addictive. Though this is not accurate, “the inherent abuse potential of a given substance is likely to reflect it’s ability to activate this reward pathway,” so that a drug’s “addiction level” can be seen directly in the mesolimbic reward pathway (2).

For example, cocaine, a heavy-hitting drug, does not cause typical withdrawal symptoms when in demand. Instead, more complex and delicate symptoms are felt, but they are not as obvious as the symptoms characteristic of withdrawal. First, there is a mood swing of sorts(the crash), and then an energy plummet (withdrawal), which effects motivation and pleasurable experiences (3).

Another example of an addictive substance is nicotine. If we accept addiction as a disease, then nicotine should be considered a drug. Referring to addiction as defined by the World Health Organization, seasoned smokers cannot go long periods of time without a cigarette or they begin to experience withdrawal symptoms: they shake, have headaches, and crave cigarettes. (Long term withdrawal symptoms include a craving for nicotine, irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, sleep disturbances, decreased heart rate, and increased appetite or weight gain (4)). This “compulsion to take the drug on a continuous or periodic basis” is well illustrated by chain smokers, who begin

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