Drug Use and Addiction Term Paper

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Drug Use and Addiction

Extensive work and research has been done in an effort to understand the impetus for drug use and addiction amongst adults, children and adolescents. Thus far, the extensive body of research has proven that, at best, drug addiction is an individual affliction at the heart of which a multitude of social, familial, and physical reasons as to why people use drugs, abuse them, and become addicted to drugs. Many researchers have concluded that the choice or compulsion driving an individual's drug use, abuse and subsequent addiction are rooted in history of the individual's family dynamics, especially his or her early formative years (Nurco, D.N., Blatchley, R.J., Hanlon, T.E., O'Grady, K.E., and McCarren, M., 1998, p. 37). While some researchers stop at the mark that suggests drug addiction is just the body's craving and compulsion for the stimulating high that the body has physically and psychologically adjusted itself to as a result of reckless and irresponsible behavior (Morse, S.J., 2006, p. 164). Still, other researchers look for signs of innate or genetic anomalies that would might predispose an individual to addiction, and, therefore, perhaps a genetic "switch" that could alter that individual's predisposed behavioral pattern - even before they become a drug user or addict (p. 164). This brief research study attempts to examine these and other research evidence that has been around the phenomenology of drug abuse and addiction in order to gain insight and understanding as to the forces that drive that behavior.

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Term Paper on Drug Use and Addiction Assignment

Using mice, Dr. Greg Mark studied one of America's most tragic and dangerous drugs, methamphetamine (Ling, L., 2006, documentary film, National Geographic). Attempting to understand what has become one of the most commonly used drugs, Mark found that the mice who become addicted to "meth," demonstrated drug seeking behavior, making numerous checks at the source of the drug, becoming anxious and excited with delayed availability of the drug (Ling, 2006). As the mice were weaned off the drug, Mark noted that the mice, when experiencing high levels of stress in their environments, returned to drug seeking behavior, returning to the source spot of the drug to alleviate their anxiety (Ling, 2006).

What this study suggests is that even when the individual's physical cleansing of the toxic drug is accomplished, that the psychology of the drug continues to be a catalyst for resuming abusive behavior, and that this behavior can be at a subconscious level, the compulsion that drives the individual back to the drug. In this case, Mark has identified stress as a precipitator to the motivation that causes individuals to resume the pattern of drug use, which leads to addiction because of the physiology associated with addictive drug use.

Whether it is meth, cocaine, heroin, or other illicit drugs, and even those prescribed legally, the physiology of the drug's impact on the body is well understood. In her book, Stages and Pathways of Drug Involvement: Examining the Gateway Hypothesis, Denise B. Kandel (2002), examines the theory surrounding the developmental stages and sequences of drug use leading to addiction (p. 3). Kandel references her own study (1975) and the study and research conducted by Hamburg, Kraemer, & Jahnke (1975), that lead to the notion of the hierarchal stages of drug addiction, which begin with the use of alcohol and, or, tobacco (p. 3). It is in the hierarchal sequence that illicit drugs follow the legal ones: marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines and heroin (p. 3). By introducing the body to the legal drugs, and prolonged use of these legal drugs, tobacco and alcohol, the premise holds that an individual is in effect conditioning their body for next level of abuse (p. 3). What happens when, through this hierarchal introduction to addictive source, the body begins to expect the drug?

R.J. DeGrandpre and Warren K. Bickel (2003) examined stimulus control and drug dependence (p. 650). They quote Bickel and Kelly (1998) and Ludwig, Stark and Wikler (1974) in providing definition for the concept of "stimulus control and drug dependence (p. 650)." It is, they say, explained this way:

Stimulus control of drug taking refers to the ability of exteroceptive or interoceptive stimuli to exert control over behavior such that the presence of these stimuli increases the probability of drug use (Bickel & Kelly, 1988). Ludwig, Wikler, and Stark (1974) summarized this control by stating that:

Obviously any therapeutic approach, whether it be insight, behaviorally or pharmacologically orientated, that does not recognize the powerful, evocative effects of interoceptive and exteroceptive stimuli... And that neglects to provide techniques for modifying the strength of these effects will likely be destined for failure.

According to the definitions above, the development of drug dependence must stem in part from an increase in the range of stimuli that come to control drug use and a decrease in the likelihood of occurrence of nondrug-related behaviors in the presence of these settings (i.e., a narrowing of the behavioral repertoire). The prospect of such a shift in stimulus control is the focus of this paper (p.650)."

Note how this takes into account the psychology and physicality of the pattern of dependence and addiction.

Jean Pierre-Changeux (1998), wrote a paper for the journal Daedalus talking about the body's physical reaction to illicit drugs (p. 145). A drug's impact on human neurotransmitters is measurable. The human brain consists of hundreds of billions of nerve cells, or neurons (p. 145). There are about 10,000 connections per neuron running through the axonal and dendritic processes (p. 145). These connectors, in short, serve as the pathways for the transmission of the drug, and result in an euphoric state of mind (p. 145). Important to this process is the level of contacts between neurons, or synapses (p. 145). Changeux says:

While Ramon y Cajal initially proposed that neurons are independent and contiguous units, electron microscopy showed that at the level of the contacts between neurons, or synapses, the cell membranes do not fuse but are separated by a significant gap. The distances between the cell surface and the conductance of the external medium in the majority of neurons are such that electrical communication cannot take place. Chemical substances, referred to as neurotransmitters, thus relay the electrical impulses to bridge the gap (p. 145)."

It is the complex structure, systems and reactions of the brain that contribute to the euphoria, or high, of drug use and addiction. Changeux describes the brain's role in the euphoric condition and state, which is what the drug users is trying to achieve.

When the electrical impulse invades the nerve terminal, the neurotransmitter stored in the ending is released into the cleft as a brief (about one millisecond) high-concentration chemical pulse that diffuses rapidly through the intercellular space until it reaches the next cell membrane. There, the neurotransmitter elicits a response in the form of either a flow of charges across the membrane (thus generating electrical currents) or a set of intracellular reactions (without necessarily being accompanied by a change of electrical properties). In some instances, the distance between the release site and the target of the neurotransmitter becomes relatively large - on a scale of millimeters or even centimeters. To some extent, the mode of communication then resembles that of hormones. In all these instances, the neurotransmitter serves as a critical chemical signal in the communication between nerve cells (p. 145)."

It is within this complex brain system that, Changeux says, "a simple principle emerges for drug action in the brain (p. 145)." What Changeux goes on to discuss in his journal article is the way in which the drugs that are stimulants, like opium, methamphetamines, cocaine and heroin, impersonate the chemicals of the brain causing the brain to react, which cause an interruption in the brain's own natural stimuli to chemical release reaction, most notably causing the chemical dopamine, which is produced by the brain, to be released within the brain (p. 145). Changeux explains it in more scientific and specific terms, saying:

Opium contains several active organic molecules, in particular morphine, from which many active analogues have been synthesized; these include heroin (which behaves like morphine) and naloxone (which acts as an antagonist of morphine). Methadone, currently used as a substitute for morphine, bears no obvious chemical relationship to morphine yet was designed on the basis of the three-dimensional structure of the molecule of morphine, and indeed assumes a similar configuration in solution. What principally distinguishes it from morphine is that methadone can be taken orally, without requiring hypodermic needles, thus reducing the risk of infection with either the AIDS or hepatitis virus. The brain does not synthesize morphine but rather a set of endogeneous peptides, the opioid peptides, which include the five amino-acid enkephalins and the much-longer endorphins and dynorphin. Structural analogies between the folded peptide and the alkaloid molecules have been thought to explain their similar pharmacological action - analgesia and euphoria, as well as respiratory depression - thereby explaining the danger of overdoses. Opioid drugs, therefore, behave as functional and structural analogs of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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