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Drug Addiction As A Disease Essay

1129 words - 5 pages

Drug abuse and addiction are issues that affect people everywhere. However, these issues are usually treated as criminal activity rather than issues of public health. There is a conflict over whether addiction related to drug abuse is a disease or a choice. Addiction as a choice suggests that drug abusers are completely responsible for their actions, while addiction as a disease suggests that drug abusers need help in order to break their cycle of addiction. There is a lot of evidence that suggests that addiction is a disease, and should be treated rather than punished. Drug addiction is a disease because: some people are more likely to suffer from addiction due to their genes, drug abuse brought on by addictive behavior changes the brain and worsens the addiction, and the environment a person lives in can cause the person to relapse because addiction can so strongly affect a person.
It is important to consider how addiction to drugs begins. “Genetics accounts for approximately half of an individual’s vulnerability to addiction, including effects of the environment on gene function and expression” (Volkow). This basically means that once a person is exposed to drugs, they are more likely to become addicted to drugs after that exposure if their genes make them more vulnerable to addiction. Consequently, not every person who is exposed to drugs will develop an addiction because they do not have the genetic make-up that makes them an addictive person, meaning that: “…predisposing genes interact with [exposure to drugs] and other environmental factors to create vulnerability” (Volkow). People cannot change their genetic make-up to prevent themselves from becoming addicted to drugs. They can only limit their exposure to a drug filled environment; however, when that is not possible, people experiencing drug addiction should be shown support in breaking their addiction and leaving the environment that is causing their addiction, rather than being punished for something that they cannot change.
Not only does an addictive genetic make-up lead to a greater likelihood of drug addiction once a person has been exposed to drugs, but drug use can create changes in the brain that worsen the addiction. There are two main ways that drugs can affect the way the brain functions: “(1) by imitating the brain’s natural chemical messengers and (2) by overstimulating the “reward circuit” of the brain” (“Drug Facts”). When drugs imitate neurotransmitters, they trick the brain’s receptors and this sends abnormal messages through the nerve cells that are activated (“Drug Facts”). The “reward circuit” of the brain is normally activated by dopamine when a person does something related to survival, such as eating or drinking water (“Drug Facts”). When the “reward circuit” is overstimulated with large amounts of dopamine caused by drug abuse, the “reward circuit” part of the brain essentially teaches people to continue using drugs because it rewards them as if they were...

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