There are more than 500,000 substance abuse or addiction-related deaths in the United States each year. Substance use disorders are a serious matter and understanding the psychological and physical causes of these conditions can get those who need help the proper treatment.

What is drug addiction?

Addiction is the chronic, relapsing brain disease that is classified by compulsive drug-seeking behavior and uses, despite harmful consequences. Drug addiction changes the structure and function of the brain, which is why it is considered a disease. As of 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not use the terms addiction or abuse but instead classifies them as substance use disorders with varying groups of severity. The groupings are impaired control, social impairment, risky use and pharmacological criteria (tolerance and withdraw).

Types of substance abuse disorders
  • Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)
  • Tobacco Use Disorder
  • Cannabis Use Disorder
  • Stimulant Use Disorder
  • Hallucinogen Use Disorder
  • Opioid Use Disorder
How does drug addiction work in the brain?

Almost all addictive drugs directly or indirectly target the brain’s pleasure center, which releases the neurotransmitter dopamine. When the overuse of drugs occurs, the chemical circuits of the brain are flooded with dopamine in the regions of the brain that control and regulate movement, emotion, cognition, motivation and feelings of pleasure. The overstimulation of the pleasure center rewards natural behaviors with euphoric effects on the brain and teaches to repeat the behavior for the same results. While the initial decision to take drugs is mostly voluntary, addiction physically changes the structure of the brain in regions that are responsible for judgment, decision making, learning, memory and behavior control.


The positive to all of this is that drug addiction is treatable and the chronic disease can be successfully managed. Successful treatment of addiction often comes as a result of a combination of behavioral therapy and medications. The essential part of any treatment of a mental disorder is the tailoring to each specific patient’s needs, which includes drug use patterns and drug-related medical psychiatric and social problems.

Frightened woman

The first step to recovery is seeking professional medical help. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, know that Strategic Mental Health is your resource for all your treatment needs. We understand and value the patient/provider relationship and our staff is experienced in providing you or your loved one with the best possible treatment plan to maximize success.

Please, contact us today to learn more about the treatment and help we can provide at (602)377-7326 or email us at