Elliott RyanMs. McGrawAVID Period 224 January 2018 I was a freshman in high school when I first tried drugs. My parents were out of town for the weekend, I was left alone with my brother who gave me the idea of smoking a little marijuana. I loved it, it made me feel good and helped me relieve stress. As time went on I experimented with drugs more and more, I wanted to know how each one made me feel. I started taking prescription drugs to get high. When I broke my ankle, I was prescribed oxycodone and hydrocodone. Later my prescription expired leaving me with none. I noticed I started to steal money from my family to pay for the pills. Even though I knew I was wrecking my home life I couldn’t stop, I was addicted. Being addicted to drugs wrecked my life, I was stealing from my family and losing friends just to support my addiction. When I wasn’t high I was depressed, everything I once loved stop bringing joy to my day. I was isolating myself from everyone who loved me. This had gone on for months before I realized I needed to quit. I tried quitting on my own but I couldn’t, my depression was getting worse and it was causing physical pain. I couldn’t quit on my own, I needed help. When I started going to treatment things started to improve, my mental health was stabilizing and I started repairing the relationships I broke. Years later when I was drug free, I looked back on my life and saw all the damage my addiction caused my friends and family and mainly my future. I’m writing this essay to encourage youth to not make the same mistakes I did and to educate others who can help addicts recover. Drug addiction continues to be a growing problem for young adults in America. In this essay I will address drug addiction, a disease that affects millions of people worldwide. According to CNN, nearly 40% of all 12th-graders surveyed had used some sort of illicit drug in the past year. I continue to see people abuse drugs in my community, it’s time to start bringing light to this problem and hopefully an end.Drug abuse has been going on for hundreds of years, only recently scientists and medical professionals have come to understand that addiction is actually a disease. Despite what researchers have said, many people still consider addiction a choice and those who suffer from it have bad morals. The People try drugs for many different reasons, weight loss, peer pressure or self-medication. The first multiple times a person uses drugs it’s their choice. When someone continuously uses drugs the chemical balance in their brain changes. Prolonged drug use will lead to addiction. Drug addiction is classified as a chronic brain disease that causes a person to compulsively see out drugs, despite the harm they cause while doing so. Addicts often relapse due to the fact that the chemical changes made in the brain, are lasting ones. The brain is vital for survival, it generates everything we feel and do. The brain processes information from the outside world such as the smell of food and from inside the body such as the feeling of hunger. Using all this information, the brain makes an appropriate response driving behaviors that help us survive, for example, eating when we are hungry. When an activity that warrants a reward is done, a chain reaction in the reward system begins. Signals are sent from the ventral tegmental area to the ventral striatum (VS). Once the signal reaches the VS it is then passed to the nucleus accumbens, the brain’s pleasure center. When the nucleus accumbens is activated neurotransmitter are released. Acting as chemical messengers, neurotransmitters travel between different cells allowing for communication in an activated circuit. The presynaptic cell makes changes to the chemicals that will be released according to the signal from the VS. After the changes are made, neurotransmitters containing dopamine are released into the synapse, while in the synapse dopamine and dopamine receptors bind together. Once bound they are received by the postsynaptic cell and the message is relayed. After the cycle is complete the bonds break and the dopamine is sent back into the synapse. When a reward is encountered, the presynaptic cell releases a large amount of dopamine resulting in a sudden burst of pleasure. After a surge of dopamine is released dopamine transmitters work to bring the level of dopamine back to the original. Normal activation of the reward system creates an impact on the brain that links certain activities with rewards that satisfy biological needs and encourage us to fulfill those needs by repeating those activities. Stimulant drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine block the transporters in the presynaptic cell causing the dopamine levels to increase beyond normal levels and remain there for a longer period of time. This leads to the hyper activation of the postsynaptic cells which causes the high feeling. Your brain then links the use of cocaine and other stimulants with extreme pleasure making the user want to repeat the experience of taking the drug. Making both these drugs extremely addictive. Drugs work by blocking certain receptors while stimulating the reward and pleasure systems of our brains. Drugs change how the reward center communicates with the rest of the brain affecting decision making, emotions and reasoning. Frequent use of drugs will change the way a brain communicates, these changes will prevent the user from feeling the same high they got when first using the drug, instead they need to take the drug to feel normal. Users must also take larger amounts of the drug to achieve the same high as the first time, this is known as tolerance. Risk factors are things that increase the likelihood of an individual to misuse drugs. Risk factors affect all people, however, children and young adults are more susceptible to developing an addiction. Generally risk factors fall into one of three categories; environment, biological or psychological. Not everyone who experiments with drugs become addicted, roughly 10% of people who use drugs will become addicted. Our earliest interactions in life play a large role in our development, from early childhood to adulthood we are constantly forming new relationships. Relationships with our friends and family are some of the greatest influences on the development of addiction. Surrounding yourself with good influences is a good way to prevent addiction, according to studies, peer pressure is the main cause of addiction among youth. Parents also play a role in the development of addiction, if a child sees his parents using substances like alcohol or tobacco, the child is more likely to try substances. If the parents don’t show enough love and support to the child, they are likely to fill the void with a substance. Good parenting is key for preventing addiction. Children who do not have set rules and guidelines are more likely to use substances at a young age, enable. Children and teens who grow up with one parent are two times more likely to develop a drug addiction later in life. Researchers have determined that children are most likely to develop an addiction during a major transition in their lives. Most commonly going to high school, and learning how to interact with a larger group of peers. While treatment options are available, the best method is prevention. Studies show that kids as young as thirteen years old are avid drug users. With more youth experimenting with drugs it is critically important to get involved at a young age, teachers and parents are both valuable assets in educating youth about drugs and their effects. Childhood and teenage years contain a multitude of changes and development, sometimes these changes can be scary. Often teens feel that they can’t control many aspects of their life, and using drugs is one thing that can control. Drugs and alcohol are prominent in all parts of U.S. media, meaning teens may feel drugs are the only option. A healthy lifestyle may aid in ensuring sobriety by offering alternatives to drugs. Exercising, playing sports, eating right and having a good home allows for the healthy mindset to grow and be created. Often times teens feel drugs are the only thing to do. Boredom is one way teens and children discover drugs. When this demographic sees there are other options besides drugs, they may be more adapt to avoid drugs and partake in these healthier options. Education is another great tool when it comes to drug prevention. School and Government programs such as D.A.R.E. and MN Teen Challenge, aid in teaching youth about the risks and dangers of drug use. The Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program, or D.A.R.E., focuses on the connection between drugs, violence and gang activities. The program highlights how the use of drugs can have lasting legal effects on participants. Programs like D.A.R.E. really showcase how drug use can lead to a life of pain, violence and legal troubles. The MN Teen Challenge focuses more on the addiction aspect of drug use through religious outlets and the Christian faith. However, the MN Teen Challenge does have a prevention program called the “Know the Truth Prevention”. This program caters to students by traveling and presenting to thousands of high schools. Whether it be tied to one’s religion, backed by scientific data, or takes on a different approach, prevention is made successful by education. Addictions can affect anyone regardless of their social status. Spotting an addict is not always as easy as it appears to be. In most cases, addicts will go to great lengths to hide their addiction from friends and family. Drug addiction changes the way your brain works, this often causes the user to change emotionally, physically and mentally. Educating yourself on the symptoms of addiction is the best way to help loved ones receive the help they need. Sudden changes in behavior often indicate a person is suffering from addiction. Some things to look for are depression, involvement in criminal activity, increased aggression and irritability. Recognizing addiction in family members can be hard. Distinguishing normal mood swings from drug abuse symptoms can be a challenge, the most common indicators of drug abuse are; problems at work or school, physical health issues and change in physical appearance. Identifying symptoms of addiction in loved ones the chance of them making a recovery is increased, early detection and involvement can be the difference between recovery and a life controlled by addiction. There is currently no cure for drug addiction, however, there are many treatment options. Addiction is a chronic disease. Just like any other chronic disease, such as heart disease, asthma and diabetes people can learn how to manage their condition and live a successful life.Individuals who are recovering from a drug addiction are at a high risk of relapsing for years and in many cases, the remainder of their lives. Drug abuse treatment is different for every person. The two main types of treatment are pharmacotherapies and behavioral therapy. Pharmacotherapies is the use of medications such as Methadone and Buprenorphine to help addicts recover from opioid addiction. These medications work by blocking the serotonin receptors in the brain, this causes the symptoms of withdrawal to be less severe and more manageable. Roughly 40 to 60% of patients respond well to pharmacotherapy. Individuals who use drug therapy to aid their recovery are often required to take the medications for the remainder of their lives. Data suggests symptoms of withdrawal will return to the patient if the medication is discontinued even years after successful drug therapy. 20% of patients who stopped taking their medications while they were successful will not respond to the same medication when restarted. Behavior therapy helps recovering addicts change their lifestyle, it provides incentives for them to remain drug-free while teaching them important life skills. The main objective of behavioral therapy is to teach former and recovering addicts how to handle stressful situations and environments that may increase the urge to use drugs. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a method of therapy used to prevent relapses while treating addiction. CBT focuses on strengthening the patients self control by exploring the consequences of prolonged drug use and avoiding situations that could trigger a relapse. The Contingency management method was developed by researchers who give patients rewards for practicing sobriety. This works alongside voucher based reinforcement (VBR). In VBR, patients take a drug test every day, every time they pass they receive a voucher that can be redeemed for food, entertainment or others goods and services they may need. As patients continue to pass drug tests the vouchers become more valuable. When a patient fails the test the value of the voucher is set back to the lowest value. The researchers who developed this method believed it would work best when aided by pharmacotherapy. Drug addictions often cause the user to avoid people they care about. When an addict tries to end their addiction they often believe it is a solitary experience. However, when a recovering addict gets support from the community, their chances of a full recovery greatly increase. Restoring broken relationships is often one of the hardest things an addict must do. Addiction causes users to constantly seek out drugs despite the harm it causes to themselves and others, this results in stealing from loved ones. Addictions allows for barriers to be built between loved ones, sometimes permanently cutting ties with family members. It seems easy to simply let addicts go through recovery alone, especially when they have wronged you. Addiction is a huge obstacle to overcome alone, meaning support is crucial in overcoming said obstacle. When aiding one with a drug addiction the Foundations Recovery Network suggest coming from a judgement free mindset. The individual dealing with the addiction is already on a difficult journey, judgement, blaming and pointing fingers will only make any present divides between the aid and the addict more present. Community members must also remember to never give up on the individual with an addiction. This may not be the easiest option, however overcoming addiction is not an easy option either. Creating this support network of determination to help and aid, with only encourage the addict to continue with their journey of sobriety. The Foundation of Recovery Network furthermore suggests giving recovering addicts a “fresh start”. This could manifest in a variety of ways. Firstly the aiding community should create a substance free environment. For example if the drug of choice is alcohol, all alcoholic beverages and items must be removed from the community. This may mean that other community members, addicts themselves or not, must not partake in the addict’s drug of choice. Temptation only aids in failure of recovery. Partnership for Drug-Free Kids notes the importance of encouraging healthy habits. Encourage exercising, eating healthy and indulging in positive hobbies. This helps to not only better the physical health of addicts, but their mental health as well. A healthy lifestyle also helps to show addicts a positive, rewarding life outside of drugs. Above all, Psychology Today suggests listening to the addict. Hear and understand that their recovery is their journey. You make want to help in certain ways but the addict may not be ready, or not the particular aid you wish to give. Listen to what the addict needs to become sober, and go at the pace they wish. This doesn’t mean simply letting go or letting an addict do as they please, but know when you are pushing too much. Recovery is a lengthy journey and may not be reached as quickly as you would like, however it is important to remind the addict and yourself that sobriety will be achieved, no many how long it takes. Drug addiction is now being treated as a mental health issue instead of a crime, this has caused more people to seek help. Despite the negative stigma, more and more addicts are asking and receiving help. If you are struggling with drug abuse or addiction it is very important for you to revive the help you need. Treatment is always available, it is never too late to get help. Recovering from a drug addiction requires a lot of work, acknowledging you have an addiction and asking for help is crucial for recovery to be possible. Visiting a doctor about your addicting greatly increases your chances of recovery. In most cases you will be directed to a rehabilitation center. When looking for treatment options it is important to find reliable centers. Common ones in Minnesota are; Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation (651-292-2405), Twin Town (651-645-3661), and Margaret’s House (651-686-0518). By reviving the help you need, you can become the next success story and help other addicts recover.