What is Addiction?

According to modern Psychology the definition of addiction is as follows –Addiction is a condition in which a person engages in use of a substance or in a behaviour for which the rewarding effects provide a compelling incentive to repeatedly pursue the behaviour despite detrimental consequences.

Addiction may involve the use of substances such as alcohol, inhalants, opioids, cocaine, methamphetamines, nicotine and others, or behaviours such as gambling, pornography and sex; there is scientific evidence that the addictive substances and behaviours share a key neurobiological feature—they intensely activate brain pathways of reward and reinforcement, many of which involve the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Addiction affects the brain’s executive functions, individuals who develop an addiction may not be aware that their behaviour is causing problems for themselves and others. Constant pursuit of the pleasurable effects of the substance or behaviour may dominate an individual’s activities.

There is a centre deep within our brain called the Nucleus Accumbens…….this is our pleasure centre. This is the area where, when stimulated releases the chemical called Dopamine. This chemical gives us that feeling of intense pleasure. Stimulation of the Nucleus Accumbens or Dopamine network comes when we experience a rush of excitement, whereas the Endorphin system, which is the body’s natural opiate system tends to induce a feeling of dreamy satisfaction.

All forms of addiction are linked to the damage in one of these systems, creating an ongoing need for more of your choice of addiction, and this may not be a substance it may in fact be overeating, gambling, alcohol or nicotine.

There is no one cause of addiction. Although genetic or other biological factors may contribute to vulnerability to the condition, many social, psychological, and environmental factors have a powerful influence on substance use. There is no one personality type associated with addiction, either.

Recovery from Addiction:

Individuals can achieve improved physical, psychological, and social functioning on their own, however this is rather the exception than the rule. Others prefer the support of community or peer-based networks. Some may opt for clinical-based recovery through the services of in house rehabilitation centres run by credentialed professionals.

Renown Neuroscientist Dr Joe Dispenza states that we can just as easily become addicted to emotions as we do substances as every thought that we have releases a chemical into the tissues of our body. For example if we are consistently angry then the brain releases the chemicals cortisol, cortisone and adrenalin. Our body becomes addicted to the chemicals and so a situation is created so that the body can have it “fix” of anger chemicals!

Have you ever known a so called “drama queen”? No matter what their experience, from relationships to buying a toaster, a drama or negative event occurs. They are in fact addicted to the chemical release that happens when they engage in the dramatic experience.

Although all addictions have the capacity to induce a sense of hopelessness and feelings of failure, as well as shame and guilt, research documents that recovery is possible, and that there are many routes to recovery.

The road to recovery is not an easy one, persistence is the key: Relapse, or recurrence of substance use, is common—but definitely not the end.

Contact Paula