What is addiction?

Addiction is a form of psychological dependence and refers to the extreme behavior patterns that are associated with getting and taking the drug despite detrimental consequences. Addiction may involve the use of substances such opioids. There is scientific evidence that the addictive substances and behaviors share a key neurobiological feature—they intensely activate brain pathways of reward and reinforcement, many of which involve the neurotransmitter dopamine. Addiction is a complex conditions that affects reward reinforcement, motivation, self-control, and memory systems of the brain, as well as social impairment- involving disruption of everyday activities, relationships, and finances. Continuing use is typically harmful to relationships and work or school obligations. Another distinguishing feature is that individuals may continue the activity despite physical or psychological harm incurred or exacerbated by use. Typically, tolerance to the substance increases, as the body adapts to its presence, which requires more and more of the substance to achieve the same euphoria. This is strikingly alarming for opioid abusers because increasing amounts ca and will cause respiratory depression and may lead to respiratory arrest- especially when paired with alcohol or barbiturates/ benzodiazepines such as Xanax. Because addiction affects the brain’s executive functions, individuals who develop an addiction may not be aware that their behavior is causing problems for themselves and others. Over time, pursuit of the pleasurable effects of the substance or behavior may dominate an individual’s activities.

It is important to understand that there is not just one cause for one to become addicted to something. Although genetic or other biological factors contribute to a person’s vulnerability to the condition, many social (family, peer-groups, employment status), psychological, and environmental factors have a powerful influence on substance use. Some characteristics, such as a lack of ability to tolerate distress or other strong feelings have been associated with addiction, but there is no one “addictive personality” type that clearly predicts whether a person will face problems with addiction in their lives. Typically, the diagnosis of being an addict is based on the presence of at least two of a number of features. These features are as listed;

  • The substance or activity is used in larger amounts or for a longer period of time than was intended
  • There is a desire to cut down on use or unsuccessful efforts to do so
  • The pursuit of the substance or activity or recovery from its use consumes a significant amount of time
  • There is a craving or strong desire to use the substance or activity, the sse of the substance or activity disrupts role obligations (work, school, home)
  • The use of the substance or activity continues despite the social or interpersonal problems it causes, the participation in important social, work, or recreational activities drops or stops.
  • Use continues despite knowing it is causing or exacerbating physical or psychological problems.
  • Tolerance occurs, indicated either by need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve the desired effect or markedly diminished effect of the same amount of substance or if withdrawal occurs.

The severity of the condition is gauged by the number of symptoms present. The presence of two to three symptoms generally indicates a mild condition; four to five symptoms indicate a moderate disorder. When six or more symptoms are present, the condition is considered severe. Lastly, it is of benefit to understand the different jargon associated with addiction; Physical dependence- is due to continued exposure, which means that discontinuation will result in withdrawal symptoms such as dysphoria (feeling unhappy), hyperalgesia (upregulated response to pain), anxiety, hypertension (high blood pressure), tachycardia (elevated heart rate), and nausea. Furthermore, tolerance is noted when increasing amounts of drugs(opioids) are required to produce an equivalent level of efficacy due to a down regulation of opioid receptors. If you know anyone or you yourself are going think you may be struggling with addiction consider reading our article on how to talk to someone struggling with addiction. Likewise, click on our outreach link labeled “Who can I contact for HELP” for information and links to certified  therapists, psychiatrists, treatment centers, and support groups.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *