Drug abuse and addiction have negative consequences for individuals and for society. Addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the addicted individual and to those around him or her. Although the initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, the brain changes that occur over time challenge an addicted person’s self control and hamper his or her ability to resist intense impulses to take drugs. Drugs contain chemicals that tap into the brain’s communication system and disrupt the way nerve cells normally send, receive, and process information. Some drugs marijuana and heroin have a similar structure to chemical messengers called neurotransmitters, which are naturally produced by the brain. Other drugs, such as cocaine or methamphetamine, can cause the nerve cells to release abnormally large amounts of natural neurotransmitters mainly dopamine or to prevent the normal recycling of these brain chemicals, which is needed to shut off the signaling between neurons.
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