a pathological or compulsive pattern of drug-seeking and drug-taking behaviours

At some time in their life, most people try a potentially addictive drug (e.g. alcohol). However, only few become addicts. Addiction implies a pathological or compulsive pattern of drug-seeking and drug-taking behaviours, which takes an inordinate amount of an individual’s time and thoughts, and persists despite harmful consequences. Addicted individuals also find it hard to reduce or to stop taking drugs, even if they desire to do so. Addicts are highly vulnerable to relapse even after long abstinence and well after symptoms of withdrawal have disappeared.

In the literature, it has been distinguished between addiction as impaired control and ‘physical dependence’ as a state of physiological adaptation to a drug which then is needed to be taken to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Some researchers also talk about ‘psychological dependence’. This term refers to a state in which an individual, for whatever reason it might be, feels a ‘need’ for something in order to feel psychologically comfortable. As such, it is different in a subtle way from addiction, which is more complex and is a syndrome involving a behaviour and feelings.

Constant exposure to drugs might be a prerequisite for the development of drug addiction, but its emergence is ultimately a function of interactions between drug effects, biological and environmental factors, which are crucially influenced by the developmental stage of the individual. Indeed, most experimentation with drugs and development of addiction take place in the period of adolescence and early adulthood.

Over the last 20 years or so there has been greater than ever acknowledgment that drugs change the brain of addicts in complex and persistent ways, so persistent that they far outlast other changes associated with tolerance and withdrawal. Persistent drug-induced changes in the brain alter a number of psychological processes, so the behaviors of addicted individual become more and more impulsive and, consequently, much less amenable to cognitive interference. Moreover, drugs affect the physiological processes that support learning, decision making, and emotional and behavioral control, leading to reduced ability to exert self-control. Some of these changes are long lasting and, in many instances, perhaps even irreversible, suggesting the idea that addiction can be conceptualized as a chronic disease.

Drug Addiction Symptoms

Addiction is a brain disease that develops slowly over time, the beginning of voluntary choice behavior – drug use. The result is essentially a completely uncontrollable compulsion / desire for drugs in their pursuit to obtain and use. After repeated doses of drugs in the long term changes in brain structure and their functioning, and these changes may persist for a long time and after use is discontinued.

Other key symptoms of addiction:

  • A strong desire, uncontrollable urge to use drugs
  • Abstinence condition characterized by cessation of drug use, characterized by severe anxiety, irritability, tremors, nausea, and so on
  • Increasing the dose to get the original effect. Changes in drug tolerance
  • Drugs used to alleviate or avoid withdrawal symptoms
  • Regular consumption of liquor has negative consequences for the professional, social and personal spheres

There are various psychological and physical dependence symptoms, which vary depending on what was used, but each is characterized by continuous dependence manifests guilt, shame, hopelessness and helplessness. Psychoactive substances unbalance the emotional stability of the drug users are often characterized by co-morbid psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, insomnia and others.


There is no way to describe what may develop a dependence on what is not. There are no specific reasons for addiction to occur. Since that is not protected by no one. The only prerequisite is to develop addiction of drugs.

Psychoactive substances that alter the emotional state of man, gives a pleasant experience, satisfaction with a wave of relaxation – has a lot of potential to develop dependence. Every relationship starts with the psychological attachment. Learned a new skill fairly quickly introduces the brain, and gradually becomes automatic behavior.

Use of chemicals in the long term changes in brain modulates the chemical balance, so the psychological addiction gets the physiological need for chemicals in order to maintain the ‘alleged’ balance sheets. These changes affect the human brain capable of motivation, emotional memory, and a sense of satisfaction.

Human behavior is becoming harder and harder to control, focusing on drugs and natural nebejautrus gyvenimiškiems pleasures (food, family, friendship, sports and so on.). Finally, the substance takes so much power that enslaves its full personality.

What increases the likelihood of relapse?

Emotionally negative events, stress, boredom. Exposure to situations or stimuli that have been previously associated with the activity of addictive behaviours, and the view of someone else engaging in the activity-all increase the likelihood of relapse.

Possible to stop, but not to maintain a stable pattern of substance use?

A large number of individuals addicted to alcohol, heroin, cocaine, nicotine and gambling eventually manage to control their behavior and stop engaging in the activity. In some of the cases this can be achieved even without the interference of professional help. On the other hand, in some individuals who have developed and addicted pattern of use, the possibility of achieving a moderate or stable pattern of non-addicted use is poor. This is true for smoking and alcohol.

Who are more likely to develop addictions?

Incidence of almost all recognized addictions is higher in men than women at the early adulthood, but this could be due to cultural and temporal variation. In the case of most addictive behaviours, it is associated with poor socioeconomic status. At an individual level, onset of most addictions is more pronounced in people who show greater tendency to antisocial behaviour as well as anxiety and depression. History of physical or sexual abuse as a child is strongly associated with development of addiction to illicit drugs and alcohol.

Why are some drugs and activities more addictive than others?

All addictive drugs have an effect on the central nervous system. Most of the addictive drugs are reported as rewarding cause they produce feelings of euphoria, relaxation and could be used as an escape from unpleasant feelings. However, even in those that provide pleasure, the degree to which they are addictive is not directly connected with the amount of pleasure that users gain from them, nor the strength of their other subjective effects (e.g. the amount of intoxication). Nicotine from cigarettes produces fairly small effects and mild pleasure but is in fact more addictive than cannabis, alcohol and cocaine. Some addictive drugs lead to physiological adaptation so that the body can not function properly when they are removed. But there are many drugs to which the body gets used to so that sudden withdrawal leads to unwanted withdrawal symptoms that are not addictive. Addictive activities that do not involve drug-taking are also rewarding in the broad sense, at least to some people, but not every rewarding activity is addictive.

Drug use and stress relief

Converging lines of evidence indicate that stress increases risk of addictive behaviors. Early life stress and child maltreatment, chronic cumulative adversity, major life trauma, and negative emotionality and impulsivity, sensation seeking traits are each associated with initiation of drug taking and increasing levels of drug use and abuse. For instance, most smokers will refer to ‘stress relief’ as a main motivating reason and yet current smokers report higher levels of stress than never smokers or even ex-smokers. Moreover, when smokers stop, their stress levels actually decline and when they relapse they go up again. It is possible that each cigarette has an acute effect on stress, possibly because it alleviates withdrawal symptoms that occur when the smoker cannot smoke, but there is a chronic effect in increasing stress. Something similar may happen with alcohol. Acute intoxication without doubt can help people to ‘forget their troubles’, calm fears and ease pain. However, once the effect has worn off, there may be a rebound increase in anxiety. Moreover, repeated intoxication has an adverse effect on the life of the drinker which further leads to increased stress and anxiety.

Why people repeatedly take drugs? Drugs as a coping mechanisms?

Clinical observations and surveys of addicted individuals demonstrate that addicted individuals are more likely to take drugs if they suffer from unpleasant affective states and psychiatric disorders. It is suggested that the particular drug an addicted individual uses is not decided randomly, but is chosen cause it helps to deal with the particular problem or problems that the person is struggling with. Therefore, initiation of drug use and the choice of drug to be used are based specifically on the drug effect sought by the individual. Drugs may be chosen for various reasons: to alleviate feelings of anxiety, stress, help to control aggressive impulses, or help to cope with psychotic symptoms and so on.