Addiction is a mental illness and chronic disease that affects the brain and the body. There’s a connection between genetics and addiction, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Addiction causes can be difficult to pinpoint. The effects of drug abuse on the body may be subtle at first, and then suddenly become significant.
What Is Addiction?
Addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (e.g., alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (e.g., gambling, sex, shopping) that can be pleasurable but the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health. Users may not be aware that their behavior is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others.
The word addiction is used in several different ways. One definition describes physical addiction. This is a biological state in which the body adapts to the presence of a drug so that drug no longer has the same effect, otherwise known as a tolerance. Another form of physical addiction is the phenomenon of overreaction by the brain to drugs (or to cues associated with the drugs). An alcoholic walking into a bar, for instance, will feel an extra pull to have a drink because of these cues.
However, most addictive behavior is not related to either physical tolerance or exposure to cues. People compulsively use drugs, gamble, or shop nearly always in reaction to being emotionally stressed, whether or not they have a physical addiction. Since these psychologically based addictions are not based on drug or brain effects, they can account for why people frequently switch addictive actions from one drug to a completely different kind of drug, or even to a non-drug behavior. The focus of the addiction isn’t what matters; it’s the need to take action under certain kinds of stress. Treating this kind of addiction requires an understanding of how it works psychologically.
When referring to any kind of addiction, it is important to recognize that its cause is not simply a search for pleasure and that addiction has nothing to do with one’s morality or strength of character. Experts debate whether addiction is a “disease” or a true mental illness, whether drug dependence and addiction mean the same thing, and many other aspects of addiction. Such debates are not likely to be resolved soon. But the lack of resolution does not preclude effective treatment.
Are There Things That Can Trigger Addiction?
The causes of addiction are not specifically known because each addiction is different. An addiction disease is a habit that takes over your life. You could become addicted to almost anything, even exercise or vegetables. When something causes you such extreme pleasure that you seek more and more of it, that’s an addiction.
There’s an association between environment and addiction. Someone who grows up in a household with addicts is prone to addiction, even if they’re not genetically linked. Substance abuse can be a learned behavior. Common addictions include substances like alcohol, but you could also become addicted to television, video games or any other activity that stimulates your brain and causes you to develop a habit.
How Does Addiction Affect Your Brain?
What part of the brain controls addiction? It develops in the pleasure centers of your brain, which is naturally wired to form habits. As a means of survival, part of your brain is programmed to crave pleasure. When you experience something pleasurable, like sex or eating a donut, your brain remembers that feeling and encourages you to do it again. Between pleasurable experiences, your brain craves the euphoric feeling.
Over time, your brain begins to rely on your substance of choice to create euphoria. Your natural feel-good brain chemicals are no longer needed. Between doses of alcohol or other drugs, you can’t experience pleasure because your natural brain chemicals are turned off.
In the beginning of recovery, your brain has to figure out how to function without the drugs. Eventually, it can restore its ability to produce feel-good chemicals, but in the meantime, you may experience some low moods and cravings for the drug that used to make you feel good.
How Does Addiction Affect Your Body?
Addiction happens in your brain, and your body is just along for the ride. Everything that affects your brain affects your body because the brain is the control center. When addiction takes hold of your brain, it focuses everything on the pleasure cycle.
While your brain is working on finding your next high and focused solely on satisfying your ravings for pleasure, your body is largely neglected. Addicts don’t have very healthy diets because all their energy is focused on feeding their habit. Any discomfort they feel, like hunger or thirst, can be eliminated with another dose.
Neglect causes the body to dip into its reserves to fuel basic functions. Eventually, those reserves run out and systems begin to break down. Most drugs have some effect on body functions, and the whole system fights to maintain an equilibrium.
Addiction Recovery at Tranquil Shores
Often people come to Tranquil Shores saying they know they have a problem but unsure whether they are addicts or alcoholics. Only after some time with group and individual therapy do some clients finally surrender to their need for help.
While you are in drug and alcohol treatment at Tranquil Shores the clinical therapy is the most valuable piece of our program. An individual is suffering from internal issues and hurts, and self- medicates with drugs and alcohol. Relationships in ones’ life can sometimes be a contributing factor. That is why we offer group therapy, individual therapy and family therapy. Once a client can navigate through their issues through all the modalities of therapy, the void they have felt can be filled. Healthy habits can be formed for coping with life stresses instead of turning to drugs and alcohol.
Many drug and alcohol treatment programs say they have a Family Therapy component. It is wise to do your homework and see what that looks like. At Tranquil Shores we know family relationships can play a huge role in one’s addiction as well as one’s recovery. We offer Family group therapy and provide resources for individual family therapy if needed.
It can be the ones you love the most that make for the most completed relationships.
If you think you may have a problem with drugs and/or alcohol, give Tranquil Shores a call. Speak to one of our admission counselors about your concerns and RECLAIM YOUR LIFE!