The Science Behind Drug Addiction

The Science Behind Drug Addiction-1

Table of Contents

Addiction is a chronic disorder that shows a pattern of repetition. Addiction can disrupt the normal, healthy function of the brain in the body. Even though addiction has a series of harmful effects on the human body, on seeking proper treatment, addiction can be completely treated. Symptoms of addiction may last longer in the human body if not taking proper treatment.


Understanding the cause of addiction is very important for tackling it. One must dive deep into the science behind substance abuse and the factors that may contribute to the development of behavior of addiction. Read this article to learn more about it.


Understanding the Science of Addiction


Neurobiology of Addiction


Decision-making by the brain is a complex process involving inducing various chemicals that control our body’s major aspects. In our brain, there are multiple neurotransmitters. Their role is to send messages to the brain in the form of signals. Based upon external stimuli, these signals may induce a chemical, namely dopamine. Upon inducing this chemical, the individual may experience a feeling of joy and pleasure. It also plays an important role in the reward system of the brain.


Addictive substances like drugs and alcohol mimic excessive amounts of these neurotransmitters, leading to the production of artificial dopamine. This increase in happy hormones creates intense pleasure associated with the substance, further leading to repeatedly seeking out the substance.

This alters the structure and function of the brain; it affects the brain’s prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for decision-making and impulse control, which leads to loss of control over the substance. The amygdala, which is part of the brain that is responsible for behaviour, emotion control and learning, is affected and altered due to addictive substances causing heightened emotions and hypersensitivity.


Substance Use Disorder and Associated Genetics


Research shows that genetics plays an important role in addiction. Genetic variation can show how an individual is going to respond when in contact with drugs. Genetics cannot be the only reason for the individual’s behaviour towards addiction. Other factors help in determining whether the person will develop a possible addiction.


Psychological factors of drug addiction


The association between drug use and environmental factors has a significant impact on an individual’s development of addiction. These environmental signs act as triggers, which lead to cravings and then lead to habituated drug behaviour. The pleasure coming from drugs and the feeling of alleviation of negative emotions may likely strengthen the habit.


This habitual drug seeking, when continued for the long term, may alter the chemical composition of the brain, thus leading to dependence and withdrawal.


Environmental Factors and Addiction


Environmental factors play an essential role in an individual’s addiction. It can influence people’s minds and attitudes towards alcohol and drugs, which further leads to an individual becoming addicted to substances. The factors are as follows

  • Family environment is vital in influencing a person’s life. If a member is addicted to drugs or has a history of addiction, it is likely going to influence the children in that family.
  • Peer pressure from friends or groups and the desire for the person to fit in leads to experimenting with drugs and alcohol. This may increase the likelihood for a person to continue using drugs.
  • Due to financial hardship and stress, the person may be using the drug as a coping mechanism. They may use drugs to feel happy and forget the stress.
  • Various cultural norms and attitudes may influence the person. In some cultures, using certain kinds of substances is accepted, while in others, it is unacceptable.
Severe Substance Use Disorder and Adolescence


Severe substance use disorder in adolescents and youth is the most serious issue dealt with nowadays. Adolescence is a very important age when the child’s brain develops. When exposed to addictive substances, it is going to affect them more severely than adults with addiction.


The mental and physical health of adolescents with substance use disorders is affected by numerous problems. Their normal brain development will be impacted by the neurobiological effects of substances that are likely to cause addiction. It also has an impact on their emotions and control of their impulses.


The critical period of brain development is during adolescence. During this period, one may develop a behavior of addiction, leading to serious consequences. People struggling with addiction can seek professional help.

The Science Behind Drug Addiction
Healing Substance Use Disorder or Drug addiction

People with addiction can be treated by seeking help from professionals. You can get help from a professional drug counsellor or in addiction psychiatry. Customized treatment plans and treatment programs are developed per the individual’s needs and challenges. Addiction is treatable, and the standard addiction treatment options include the following.


Medications and Behavioral Therapies


Timely medication is one of the major solutions for reducing the behaviour of cravings Behavioural therapies like Cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBT) can help relieve stress related to a substance and bring back the individual to positive behaviour. This helps both psychological and behavioural aspects.


Neurobiological treatments


Treatments like deep brain stimulations and targeted medication help adjust the brain’s reward system and return it to normal function.


Comprehensive approach


A comprehensive approach that helps with the complex nature of addiction. Customized treatment plans and programs are developed per the individual’s needs and challenges. Addiction is treatable, and the standard addiction treatment options include:

  • Behavioural Therapy
  • Counselling ( Individual or Group)
  • Medication to help with withdrawal symptoms
  • Support Groups
  • Holistic Approaches like Yoga and Meditation.

Understanding this complex nature of addiction is crucial as it involves neurobiology, genetics and psychology. However, a holistic treatment is necessary for the treatment of addiction, which includes prevention and treatment. When done together, we can create a drug-free society.


A drug counsellor can provide you with the initial treatment steps for a recovery from addiction. Treatment is most effective at the stage of development of drug addiction.

Environmental factors like unsupportive or dysfunctional family, peer pressure among friends, and stress are some of the factors that increase the risk of addiction.

Drug use and addiction may affect adolescents more than adults as the effects of substance is going to affect their normal brain development, affecting their cognitive functions, impulse control and emotions. Their health condition, both physical and mental health, is affected by addiction.

Yes, certain medication is prescribed to manage cravings and withdrawal of substances like opioids and nicotine.

Addiction is a state which is not completely preventable. However, the extent of damage to the individual due to addiction can be reduced by taking timely medication and ensuring proper treatment. For an effective treatment of overcoming addiction, you need the help and support of family and professionals.

Addictive drugs can cause a change in structure and also affect the functioning of the human brain. During the period of treatment, the human brain goes through a battle to return to the original stage. A small lapse in the treatment method may induce the chemicals in the brain, creating a tendency to take more of the substance, which causes addiction.

Contributing Editor

Troy Wakelin – Co-Founder and Contributing Editor

Recent Posts
Inspirational Videos
Sign up for our Newsletter

Sign Up For Our Quarterly Newsletter