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FAQ: Difficulty in Quitting Drug Addiction

Long-term drug use results in significant changes in brain function that persist long after the individual stops using drugs.2. Why can't drug addicts quit on their own?

Nearly all addicted individuals believe in the beginning that they can stop using drugs on their own, and most try to stop without drug addiction treatment. However, most of these attempts result in failure to achieve long-term abstinence. Research has shown that long-term drug use results in significant changes in brain function that persist long after the individual stops using drugs. These drug-induced changes in brain function may have many behavioral consequences, including the compulsion to use drugs despite adverse consequences. This may be the defining characteristic of addiction.

Long-term drug use results in significant changes in brain function that persist long after the individual stops using drugs.
Understanding that addiction has such an important biological component may help explain an individual's difficulty in achieving and maintaining abstinence from drug use without treatment. Psychological stress from work or family problems, social cues (such as meeting individuals from one's drug-using past), or the environment (such as encountering streets, objects, or even smells associated with drug use) can interact with biological factors to hinder attainment of sustained abstinence and make relapse more likely. Research studies indicate that even the most severely addicted individuals can participate actively in drug treatment and that active participation is essential to good outcomes.

Source: National Institute of Drug Abuse, "Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research Based Guide."

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APA Reference
Writer, H. (2008, December 25). FAQ: Difficulty in Quitting Drug Addiction, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/addictions/articles/difficulty-in-quitting-drug-addiction

Last Updated: April 26, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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