7 Facts to Know About Addiction
There is an immense amount of misunderstanding surrounding active addiction, addiction treatment and long-term sobriety. When it comes to understanding the most effective treatment options for your unique case, it is important to understand how addiction works. We have compiled a list of 7 addiction facts that a lot of people don’t understand. If you have any additional questions about addiction or the recovery process, today.
Substance abuse changes the way the brain functions.
There is still a widespread stigma surrounding substance dependence, and many people mistakenly believe that addiction concerns nothing more than a lack of will-power and weak conviction. In reality, addiction actually changes cognitive function and alters the physical makeup of the brain over time. The brain is made up of numerous circuits that work together in order to provide vital functions. Neurons release neurotransmitters that cross synapses and attach to receptors, sending messages that dictate the way we behave. Chemical substances interfere with the way neurons send, receive and process these messages. Chemical substances also cause surges of “feel good” chemicals like dopamine and serotonin leading to feelings of intense pleasure and euphoria. Everyone’s brain is wired to repeat activities that make us feel good. But in the mind of an addict, the brain actually tells the body it needs drugs and alcohol in the same way it needs food, water and shelter. An addiction, when it is fully developed in the brain, acts much like a survival instinct, even surpassing other survival instincts. This is why a severe addict will sometimes prioritize drugs and alcohol over other primary survival instincts such as shelter, sex and even food.
An article about the nature of addiction published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse states, “Whenever the reward circuit is activated by a healthy, pleasurable experience, a burst of dopamine signals that something important is happening that needs to be remembered. This dopamine signal causes changes in neural connectivity that make it easier to repeat the activity again and again without thinking about it, leading to the formation of habits. Just as drugs produce intense euphoria, they also produce much larger surges of dopamine, powerfully reinforcing the connection between consumption of the drug, the resulting pleasure, and all the external cues linked to the experience. Large surges of dopamine ‘teach’ the brain to seek drugs at the expense of other, healthier goals and activities.” Over time the ability to experience pleasure naturally is reduced significantly, and physical and psychological dependence takes over.