Understanding Addiction

Addiction is a disease that overtakes the mind and alters its ability to ration and operate normally. When one suffers from drug or alcohol addiction, they experience an intense urge to use that is so strong it won’t dissipate until the craving is satisfied.

Addiction is complicated and many may wonder why some try drugs and don’t become addicted while others try drugs and become hooked. Biology and genetics are two factors that play a significant role when it comes to answering this question. Many addicts are born with an addictive gene making them more vulnerable to addiction than others.

What is Addiction?

Certain criteria which classify as addiction are:

  • Avoiding responsibilities so that you can use drugs/alcohol
  • Continue to use even though it is affecting your relationships and work/school
  • Partaking in reckless activities while you are under the influence of drugs/alcohol
  • Becoming irritable/argumentative when you cannot get a hold of drugs/alcohol

How Addiction Works

Addiction works by altering the way the brain registers pleasure, corrupting it, and convincing it that it needs the desired substance in order to function properly. The nature of addiction is a very complicated one and addiction begins with the habit-forming effect that drugs have on the brain. Being the most intricate organ in the entire human body, the brain is intriguingly complex on its own, yet alone when it is under the effects of drugs.

Drugs consist of chemicals that affect the communication, satisfaction, and reward systems of the brain. When substances, whether drugs or alcohol, interfere with the neurons in the brain, it changes the way the brain reacts to things. Stronger drugs such as cocaine and Adderall cause neurons to emit greater amounts of neurotransmitters, disrupting normal communication signals.

How Drugs Work to Produce the Sensation of Pleasure

Addiction is closely connected to pleasure for one obvious reason: It mimics it. In short, many drugs hone in on the reward system of the brain. Drugs work by giving excess amounts of dopamine to the brains reward system. In turn, a sensation of relief, pleasure, and satisfaction is experienced.

Pleasure Circuit Keeps Addicts Using

Once an addict is hooked on a substance, the brain then becomes wired and anticipates a dose of it every time the craving occurs. The reward center of the brain is then awarded with a surge of pleasure, also known as a high.

Some drugs are more addictive than others. While some drugs release two times the amount of dopamine when compared to naturally derived dopamine (eating food, sex, etc.), others release a whopping ten times the amount of dopamine. This is why drugs, both prescription and illegal, are so dangerously addictive. Once a person witnesses such a pleasurable sensation, they then become less tolerant to things that once made them happy via naturally released normal levels of dopamine that. This means that the addict losses interest in previous hobbies that formerly created pleasure for them because they are constantly seeking a high-level of pleasure. This high-level of satisfaction is only received through addictive substances.

Long-Term Effects of Addiction

When an individual is exposed to drugs for a prolonged period of time, it hinders the structure of the brain leading to addiction. Continued use and exposure to drugs can lead to an increased tolerance for it, requiring your body to need more of the substance in order to get the same high, possibly leading to an overdose.

Drugs, especially cocaine, alter the brain and affect it for a lifetime. Over time, drug use takes a toll on the makeup of the brain itself and makes is less normal and less functioning even when the addict hasn’t used in years. A drug abuser that has been using for decades may never receive full function of certain areas of the brain back even after years of sustained sobriety.

The Good News

Drug abuse can be prevented and treatable. Since addiction is a disease, we as humans are not immune from the disease of addiction, but we can avoid the disease by not trying drugs in the first place. Treatment programs are available through WhiteSands Treatment that can help addicts overcome addiction so that they can begin to live happy and productive lives.