There are several factors that causes addiction. Many people think addiction is a choice or moral problem and all you have to do is stop but it doesn’t work that way.
The word addiction is derived from Addictus (Latin) which means to devote, surrender, or slave.
Addiction is a psychological and physical inability to stop consuming a chemical, drug, activity, or substance, even though it is causing psychological and physical harm.
It may involve the use of substances such as alcohol, inhalants, opioids, cocaine, nicotine, etc. or behaviors like gambling.
HOW THE BRAIN WORKS
When you eat a good meal or bond with a loved one, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released in the nucleus accumbens. The release of dopamine is communicated to the Amygdala which is in charge of your emotions and it tells you how good the activity made you feel which motivates you to repeat them. The Hippocampus helps you remember this good feeling and the activities that resulted in it so you redo them. This is the reward/pleasure center.
HOW THE BRAIN WORKS WHEN ADDICTED
STEP 1: The Pleasure
Addiction changes both brain structure and function. The object of addiction provides a shortcut to the brain’s reward system by flooding the nucleus accumbent with dopamine at a rate than it normally would in everyday pleasurable moments.
The drugs, behaviors, etc. give you a faster RATE + more INTENSE + RELIABLE good feeling.
STEP 2: The Learning
When you experience “the high” for the first time, your brain stores this memory like every normal brain.
Dopamine interacts with Glutamate to hijack the brain’s system of reward-related learning. Which is linked to activities needed for human survival (feeding, sex, sleeping). The reward center as we saw earlier consists of parts that give pleasure, memorizes the object of pleasure, and motivates you to search for it. Addictive substances and behaviors stimulate the reward center and overload it.
We keep repeating this process over and over until the prefrontal cortex (area of your brain responsible for planning and executing tasks) starts from liking the experience to wanting it so bad, that you feel you cannot do without it.
STEP 3: Tolerance and Compulsion
Naturally, rewards and pleasure come with time and effort but addictive drugs and behaviors provide a shortcut. They can release dopamine and other neurotransmitters up to ten times more than a natural reward.
This can overwhelm the brain with time so it builds a defense mechanism because the body always finds a way to fix what is not normal. The brain starts producing less dopamine or eliminates dopamine receptors.
The result is that your object of addiction does not give you much pleasure as before, you have developed tolerance. The tendency is to increase intake or seek after something with a stronger effect because you have a compulsion to recreate the feeling.
Addiction manifests in three (3) distinct ways:
- Craving for the object of addiction
- Loss of control
- Continuing involvement with it despite adverse consequences even if it is killing you.
TYPES OF ADDICTION
- Alcohol and Drug Addiction (Adderall, amphetamines, steroids, benzos, cocaine, codeine, oxy, narcs, crack, ecstasy, tramadol, etc)
- Behavioral Addiction (cellphone, social media, gambling, porn, masturbation, sex, shopping, video games, hoarding, gambling, etc.)
Addiction has an increased likelihood of being accompanied by other mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, or other problems.
- A lot of time spent indulging in these behaviors or substances
- Inability to cut back or quit using or engaging in the behavior
- Strong desire to use or engage
- Inability to fulfill other obligations not related your object of addiction
- Social or relationship problems
- Tolerance to substance or behavior
- Withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of use or behavior.
It may be time to seek help when you experience these signs concerning activity or substance dangerous to your health.
- Family History
- Poor coping skills for dealing with stress
- Negative thinking
- Underlying anxiety or depression
- Peer pressure
May include all or some of the following approaches.
- Detoxification is the first stage of treatment and should be done under medical supervision
- Medications that counter the use of illicit substances or for underlying conditions that come with addiction like anxiety and depression
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy / Counselling to fix the underlying cause of the need that a behavior or substance is filling in a person’s life.
- Group therapy/ peer support groups use the direct experience of others to help with an individual recovery and getting support from people that understand the struggle.
- Family therapy is done to resolve any damage that may be caused by addiction, and train the family about what to expect and gain support for an individual in recovery. The stigma and misconception of addiction that it is caused by rebellion and it is an individual choice to stop if they want to should be changed. Families with addicts should know that it is not a lifestyle choice, it is a disease.
Addicts are not Morally flawed or lack will power to stop their “Bad Behavior” they are no longer in control.
Recovery is slow and takes a lifetime for a recovering addict to keep avoiding triggers that may steer up the memory and compulsion to use a substance or engage in a behavior.
In Nigeria, there has been a surge in the cases of drug addiction from teenagers to adults. I believe the authorities and some non-governmental organizations are setting up recovery centers and safe houses across the country. You can message us privately to find out a center near you.
If you need help or just someone to talk to about your struggles, feel free to use the Consult a Doctor platform on the site.
Cheers to breaking free from whatever shackles binding us.
Love and Light.