Understanding why drugs are so addicting requires an understanding of the brain and how it is affected by drugs.
The brain has natural pleasure sensors that release dopamine. When something good happens or we enjoy a nice meal or even a pleasant exchange with someone, the brain releases dopamine. When drugs are introduced into the body, they stimulate this natural chemical release.
This is where the issue lies physiologically. As more drugs are used, the brain depends on these higher levels of dopamine. This then lessens the initial effect or “high” the individual gets. When this happens, the brain reaches a tolerance level for the altered stimulation of dopamine and the body wants more. We then need more of the drug to achieve that “high.” This is when the chronic use of drugs can take effect on someone.
The question “why are drugs so addicting?” is difficult for a non-addicted person to understand.
Drug addiction is a chronic disease, just like any other. It does not ever go away, although it can be treated. It is not a matter of willpower or choice. Although the initial decision to start using a drug is a choice, the chronic nature of the disease makes it difficult to reign in. This is why relapsing is such a problem in recovery.
There are many other factors to consider when looking at drug addiction. One’s environment can have an effect. If a child is reared in a home where there is drug abuse, they are more likely to move in that same path. Peer pressure is also a factor for youth. There are also biological reasons for drugs to become an addiction. Mental disorders can also result in drug addiction.
The good news is that regardless of what factors play into addiction, there is a solution to this disease: treatment.
Many successful treatment programs, such as a 12-step program, have proven successful. If I had any other chronic condition like asthma or diabetes, I would treat it. I can treat my addiction and live a life free from that bondage.
Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved April, 2017.
Understanding Drug Use and Addiction. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved April, 2017.