Addiction is an illness. Contrary to popular misconception, no one chooses to become addicted. Once it hijacks the brain, it’s very difficult to put an end to it, even if we really want to. Before determining the reasons WHY people get addicted, first let’s discuss what addiction really is. Can we say that someone is an addict if they do something very often, or they say they can’t live without that particular thing? Not necessarily. However, if the person loses control over that particular thing, meaning they cannot do something or cannot stop doing something despite their intentions, this is a clear sign that they might have gotten hooked. Addiction makes permanent alterations to the brain, corrupting the instincts responsible for recognizing pleasure and pain. That’s why it’s so difficult to beat, especially on your own. You’re simply no longer able to recognize the dangers of the substance you’re addicted to.
So let’s answer the twin questions: How do people get addicted in the first place? Is there a way to break the addiction once and for all?
Understanding the process – What are some of the factors contributing to addiction?
In the last century, addiction was considered a clear sign of a flawed character or evidence of a lack of willpower. It was associated with weakness and heavily ostracized. It wasn’t until recently that scientists began to understand that addiction is actually a mental illness that the person affected has little control over. WIth that, addiction finally became part of a much needed public discussion: Patients started to receive proper attention, and new treatment ideas were slowly developed.
Studying the brains of drug or alcohol addicts has allowed doctors to understand how addiction develops. Our mind recognizes pleasure by releasing a chemical called dopamine, which makes us feel good. All drugs of abuse are believed to cause a particularly strong reaction in the brain’s pleasure center. The brain recognizes the dopamine release as a reward; depending on how strongly the drug affects the user, the brain begins to not only expect it, but demand it. The sudden sense of satisfaction is so overwhelming that the person starts to believe (or rather, their brain makes them believe) that they cannot function without the substance.
The other aspect of addiction is the body’s growing tolerance to the abused substance. With time, our bodies get accustomed to its effect and start to demand the more intense feeling that accompanied the first use. As a result, a person with addiction increases their intake. It’s a vicious circle, because the more the brain feeds off the drug, the more it demands. At this point, something called compulsion takes over. In other words, the person is no longer conscious of controlling the urges. The drive becomes so powerful that the only way to satisfy it is to use.
Does it mean that overcoming addiction is impossible? Of course not! But it’s not just a matter of willpower, as was previously believed. Some of the treatments include self-help strategies, psychotherapy, medications, and rehabilitation programs. Which one you choose will depend on your case. That’s why it’s extremely important that you consult a physician before you begin the healing process. Did you know that in our Detox Clinic in Hernando County, you will find everything you need in order to break the cycle and start recovering?
Pain Management & Spine Care’s Medical Director, Dr. Eyad Alsabbagh, is a fellowship-trained Interventional Pain Medicine physician, trained and educated to provide the highest quality of service to patients suffering from multiple conditions, including narcotics addiction and back pain. He utilizes state-of-the-art technology at his Pain Management Clinic located in Brooksville.