Environment Found to Heighten the Effects of Some Drugs to Drive Addiction
Environmental risk factors like school, home, and community have always been known to play a major role in a person’s risk for addiction. But new evidence suggests that using certain drugs in certain environments can affect how the brain processes the drug-taking experience, and may drive addiction in some individuals. The study has been published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.
How Can Environment Change the Effects of Drugs?
Neuroscientists at the University of Sussex set out to learn whether a person’s environment has an impact on the way the brain experiences drug use when the environment either matches or mismatches the effects of certain drugs. For the study, scientists asked 53 drug users to recall how their drug-using experiences with cocaine or heroin were impacted based on whether they used these drugs at home or outside the home, such as at a club. A separate group of 20 people underwent brain scans while being asked to imagine their experiences if they were to use the drugs in each setting.
Almost 90% of heroin users reported pleasure when using the drug at home, while less than 40% said they felt positive effects when using heroin outside the home. In regards to cocaine use, 50% said the drug was more pleasurable when used outside the home, while almost 27% said cocaine was more enjoyable at home.
The neuroscientists say that each drug can create different emotional states when used in environments that mismatch the drug’s effects. For instance, the stimulating effects of cocaine may produce more positive effects when used in busy, high-energy environments, while the sedating effects of heroin may produce more positive effects when used in low-key, relaxing environments like the home. The brain scans revealed that a person’s emotional and neural response to addictive drugs such as these are affected based on environment and setting. The study authors hope this new finding could lead to more effective treatments for addiction and relapse.
How Does Environment Contribute to Addiction?
Evidence suggests that people who spend time in environments where the potential for drug abuse is likely are at heightened risk for addiction compared to the rest of the population. Home, family, peers, and school are among some of the top environmental risk factors for addiction. Children who grow up surrounded by relatives who use drugs and alcohol are at higher risk for addiction, as well as people who spend time in environments where drugs are easily accessible. Poor social skills and peer pressure can also lead to addiction, as can living in a community with a poor economy.
Part of avoiding or overcoming addiction involves removing yourself from unhealthy environments that encourage drug and alcohol use. If you think your environment may be putting you at risk for addiction, there are certain lifestyle changes you can make that allow you to stay sober and healthy. For instance, stop spending time with friends who enable and pressure you to do drugs and alcohol, and engage in healthy sober activities like sports, exercise, and reading to keep you occupied and away from drugs.
Knowing When It’s Time to Get Help
If you’ve been using drugs like cocaine and heroin and can’t stop using these substances without experiencing withdrawal symptoms, you may be suffering from drug dependence. Drug dependence can be safely and effectively treated using a medical drug detox, which helps you withdraw from drugs while facing a lowered risk for complications. Drug detox is the first stage of overcoming addiction, and may be combined with therapy to help you overcome the underlying causes of your addiction.
Visit our online directory to locate the nearest drug detox center in your area, or call 866-351-3840(Who Answers?) to discuss your available treatment options.