There are many aspects to the various discussions about drugs. When we talk about drugs, are we talking about illegal substances or are we talking about prescribed medications? Are we talking about production, trafficking or the abuse of drugs? The topic of drugs is very complex, and each element of the drug issue needs to be addressed.
The Cause of Addiction
Addiction is a disease. People who are addicted are unable to control their dependence on an illegal substance or a prescribed medication. Addicts are unable to control their dependence because their brain has become altered due to drug use.
People who are addicted cannot simply “choose” to stop using drugs. They need assistance in weaning off the drug and realigning their brain to support their decision to stop using drugs.
Environmental Factors Leading to Addiction
People’s upbringing and environment are often studied to determine how much environment influences addiction. People who were raised in an unstable or abusive environment have a greater tendency to use and abuse drugs. People who live in an environment where the use or abuse of drugs or alcohol is considered normal often seek social and professional relationships in which drugs are perceived as normal as well; thus, their opportunity to use drugs increases. If individuals grew up in a community with high drug use, they need to reframe their thinking about the sense of community.
On a more personal environment level, people who started using drugs at a very young age, whether prescribed or illegal, form the “habit” mentality, which requires intervention to help the person unlearn the habit. People who inject, snort or smoke drugs seem to become addicted more quickly because these methods introduce a large amount of the drug quickly to the brain. However, the high does not last long and requires another fix.
The decriminalization of drugs pertains to illegal drug use. The eyes of the world are all looking at Portugal, which decriminalized drugs 10 years ago and proclaims that drug use is down by 50 percent. According to Joao Goulao, the president of the Institute of Drugs and Drugs Addiction, “There is no doubt that the phenomenon of addiction is in decline in Portugal.” Goulao also states, “This development cannot only be attributed to decriminalization but to a confluence of treatment and risk reduction policies.”