It is well known that drugs are an issue that many teenagers across the nation face, as a growing number of the teenagers find themselves addicted each year. Many kids see drugs as an escape from the pressures of school, family life, and their social lives. They use drugs to “treat” a variety of conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Eventually, they fall into a mindset in which they believe that they absolutely need drugs to function. This dependency makes withdrawal difficult. In addition, those with mental disorders are more likely to become addicts, as opposed to the mentally stable.
In a social context, peer pressure is a leading cause of initial drug use. Teenagers often feel compelled to try drugs if their friends use drugs. Utilizing drugs becomes a form of social acceptance, and rejecting drugs often means alienation from that specific group. Teenagers may also be influenced by factors within the home. If their parents use drugs or have liberal beliefs regarding drugs, they are more likely to use drugs. A broken or dysfunctional home or the absence of parents may also increase the chances of addiction.
Still, there is a category of causes that is often overlooked: biochemical causes. Brain activity plays a significant role in addiction. Neurotransmitters are chemical substances responsible for transmitting nerve impulses from one nerve cell to another. They are therefore responsible for allowing us to perform various functions. Psychoactive drugs can interfere with normal neurotransmission activity in a number of ways. In the case of marijuana, for example, its main ingredient, tetrahydrocannabininol (THC) enters the bloodstream and binds to receptors, imitating the activity of neurotransmitters. The result is an array of unnatural, detrimental effects on one’s body and brain. Stimulants such as cocaine act directly upon the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is directly related to the “reward” circuit of the brain and is responsible for feelings of pleasure and arousal. Cocaine increases dopamine levels in the brain by preventing the reuptake of dopamine, leaving more of it in the synapses. This produces a feeling of euphoria. Furthermore, the cocaine user will need more and more of the drug each time, in order to achieve that same high. This effect is known as tolerance.
The biochemical perspective suggests that while there are human factors involved in addiction, they are not entirely at fault. Only in recent years has addiction been declared a brain disorder. This new understanding of addiction is, in turn, creating new approaches to treatment. Traditional methods, such as the twelve-step program, emphasize counseling and personal evaluation. However, doctors and scientists are slowly turning to drug-based treatment plans that are more scientific in nature. Essentially, this is the use of drugs to treat drug addiction. It is now becoming apparent that addiction may be more complex than previously thought.