Why Do We Get Addicted To Things
17 October 17
Think about an experience that makes you feel good. It could be successfully completing a project at work, eating a warm chocolate chip cookie or taking a swig of whiskey. It could be a puff of a cigarette or a shopping trip. A dose of Vicodin or a hit of heroin.
Those experiences don’t automatically lead to addiction. So what makes a particular habit or substance an addiction? What propels some people to seek out these experiences, even if they are costly or detrimental to their health and relationships?
“Addiction is a biopsychosocial disorder. It’s a combination of your genetics, your neurobiology and how that interacts with psychological and social factors,” said Maureen Boyle, a public health advisor and director of the science policy branch at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. That means it’s a lot like any other chronic disorder, such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease. And just like other chronic diseases, addiction is both preventable and treatable, Boyle said, but added that if left untreated, it can last a lifetime.
The Disease Model Of Addiction
The definition of addiction varies among individuals, organizations, and medical professionals, and societys viewpoints about addiction are ever-evolving. The National Institute on Drug Abuse , the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration , and the National Institutes of Health all similarly describe addiction as a long-term and relapsing condition characterized by the individual compulsively seeking and using drugs despite adverse consequences.1
These organizations call addiction a disorder or a disease because:1
- Addiction changes how the brain responds in situations involving rewards, stress, and self-control.
- These changes are long-term and can persist well after the person has stopped using drugs.
Comparing substance addiction to heart disease may help illustrate why it is defined as a disease by so many:1
- Both addiction and heart disease disturb the regular functioning of an organ in the body the heart for heart disease and the brain for addiction.
- They both can lead to a decreased quality of life and increased risk of premature death.
- Addiction and many types of heart disease are largely preventable by engaging in a healthy lifestyle and avoiding poor choices.
- They are both treatable to prevent further damage.
The Importance Of Societal And Social Influence
As indicated by the above three primary categories of addiction factors, social influence makes a huge difference in environmental and developmental factors. Additionally, a psychological predisposition to drug abuse can be brought to light through social situations.
Many psychologists believe that negative behaviors brought about by social interactions can trigger a predisposition to addiction. This is done largely by forming a positive association with the environment in which drug was used and the people it was used with.
Someone may have a strong predisposition to an addiction but never end up in social situations in which they are exposed to a harmful substance. They may go their entire life without even realizing that they are prone to addiction.
Conversely, someone with a much weaker predisposition to addiction can still become an addict by being placed in situations that form positive associations between people, places and harmful substances.
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The Myth Of The Addictive Personality
The recently deceased writer and television personality Anthony Bourdain was criticized by some for recreationally using alcohol and cannabis, in what was seemingly a very controlled and responsible manner, decades after he quit heroin and cocaine. Was this a valid criticism? Can a person who was addicted to drugs or alcohol in their teens safely have a glass of wine with dinner in their middle age?
It depends on which model of addiction and recovery you subscribe to. If you are a traditionalist who believes that addictions last a lifetime, that people readily substitute addictions, and that people have ingrained addictive personalities, the answer is: absolutely not. This would be playing with fire.
I learned early in my own recovery how critical it is to apply logic and evidence to the field of addiction, and that just because things make sense, and because we have thought about them in a certain way for an extended period of time, that doesnt mean that they are necessarily true. While in rehab, I was actually told a lot of other things that turned out to have no basis in scientific evidence. For example, I was told on a daily basis that a drug is a drug is a drug. This mentality doesnt allow for there being a difference between, for example, the powerful opiate fentanyl, which kills thousands of people every year, and buprenorphene which is a widely-accepted treatment for opioid use disorder.
Where Does Heroin Come From: The Answers Lie Outside The Us
Tracing the origins of heroin to find out where it comes from and produced, is a different question altogether and requires a look at a world map.
Much of the heroin used in the U.S. is not made there, so other countries are meeting demand for it, authorities said. According to the Drug Enforcement Agencys 2015 Drug Threat Assessment Report, Mexico is the primary supplier for heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana. The drug is also entering the United States from Colombia, Southeast Asia, and Southwest Asia.
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What Are The Treatments For Drug Addiction
Treatments for drug addiction include counseling, medicines, or both. Research shows that combining medicines with counseling gives most people the best chance of success.
The counseling may be individual, family, and/or group therapy. It can help you:
- Understand why you got addicted
- See how drugs changed your behavior
- Learn how to deal with your problems so you won’t go back to using drugs
- Learn to avoid places, people, and situations where you might be tempted to use drugs
Medicines can help with the symptoms of withdrawal. For addiction to certain drugs, there are also medicines that can help you re-establish normal brain function and decrease your cravings.
If you have a mental disorder along with an addiction, it is known as a dual diagnosis. It is important to treat both problems. This will increase your chance of success.
If you have a severe addiction, you may need hospital-based or residential treatment. Residential treatment programs combine housing and treatment services.
Mood States And Emotional Dysregulation
Some experts have noted a relationship between mood states and emotional regulation with an increase in compulsive sexual behaviors.
A 2020 study, for example, found that emotional dysregulation can be both a symptom of and a contributing factor to the development of the condition.
Emotional dysregulation refers to a difficulty managing your emotions or regulating emotional reactions to a specific stimulus.
A 2020 review also found a link between feelings of boredom and hypersexuality, although more evidence is needed to establish a causal relationship.
In general, higher levels of both pleasant and unpleasant emotions have been linked to an increase in impulsive-compulsive behaviors.
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If You Think You Might Have An Addiction
It is common, if not normal, to go through a stage of engaging in substance use or an addictive behavior without believing you are addicted. This is so common, in fact, that it has a name, the pre-contemplation stage.
If you are starting to think you might have an addiction, you have probably moved into the contemplation stage. This is a great time to find out more about the substance or behavior that you have been engaging in and to reflect honestly on whether you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of addiction.
Many people then decide to make changes. For some people, this is easy and manageable. For many others, quitting can lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, even with behaviors, and can open up uncomfortable feelings that were being soothed or suppressed by the addictive behavior.
If this happens, or if you have been drinking or using drugs, such as opioidsillicit or prescribed, other prescription medications, stimulants, cocaine, or methyou should seek medical help immediately.
Stopping some drugs then relapsing can heighten your risk of overdose, mental health problems, or other life-threatening medical complications, and should be done under medical supervision.
Whats The Outlook For Sex Addiction
The person addressing sex addiction faces a unique set of challenges. They may be engaging in behaviors that put their relationships, their own safety and health, and the health of their partner in jeopardy. At the same time, sex addiction is considered a controversial diagnosis and its lacking diagnostic criteria as well as evidence-based treatments.
If you feel that you have a sex addiction, begin by talking with your family doctor. There are also organizations that can provide support.
If you or a loved one is experiencing sex addiction, these resources may be helpful:
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Preventing Drug Use Among Children And Adolescents When And How Does Drug Abuse Start And Progress
Studies such as the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, formally called the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, reported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, indicate that some children are already abusing drugs at age 12 or 13, which likely means that some begin even earlier. Early abuse often includes such substances as tobacco, alcohol, inhalants, marijuana, and prescription drugs such as sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medicines. If drug abuse persists into later adolescence, abusers typically become more heavily involved with marijuana and then advance to other drugs, while continuing their abuse of tobacco and alcohol. Studies have also shown that abuse of drugs in late childhood and early adolescence is associated with greater drug involvement. It is important to note that most youth, however, do not progress to abusing other drugs.
Preventive interventions can provide skills and support to high-risk youth to enhance levels of protective factors and prevent escalation to drug abuse.
Scientists have proposed various explanations of why some individuals become involved with drugs and then escalate to abuse. One explanation points to a biological cause, such as having a family history of drug or alcohol abuse. Another explanation is that abusing drugs can lead to affiliation with drug-abusing peers, which, in turn, exposes the individual to other drugs.
Helping A Friend With Addiction
If you’re worried about a friend who has an addiction, you can use these tips to help him or her. For example, let your friend know that you are available to talk or offer your support. If you notice a friend backsliding, talk about it openly and ask what you can do to help.
If your friend is going back to drugs or drinking and won’t accept your help, don’t be afraid to talk to a nonthreatening, understanding adult, like your parent or school counselor. It may seem like you’re ratting your friend out, but it’s the best support you can offer.
Above all, offer a friend who’s battling an addiction lots of encouragement and praise. It may seem corny, but hearing that you care is just the kind of motivation your friend needs.
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Reward System: Brain Chemistry And Neurotransmitters
In the center of the brain are two massesone for each hemisphereof nerve cells called the nucleus accumbens. When you eat, have sex, or partake in any activity that promotes survival, this region is flooded with a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which provides a sense of pleasure from the activity.
Individuals with naturally low levels of dopamine are susceptible to substance abuse because drugs and alcohol cause an abnormally large surge in dopamine levels, activating the pleasure response. As a substance abuser continues to take the drug, the brain will become exhausted by the surges of dopamine and begin producing less and less of its own as a result. This chemical response to the drug being repeatedly introduced into the body produces physical dependency on the drug due to the now exacerbated dopamine deficiency.
Individuals with naturally low levels of dopamine are susceptible to substance abuse because drugs and alcohol cause an abnormally large surge in dopamine levels, activating the pleasure response.
Similarly, serotonin deficiencylinked to depression, anxiety, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorderhas recently been found to also pose risk for addiction. In particular, ethanol, cannabinoids, opioids, and psychostimulants have been used by many to self-medicate, raising the previously low levels of serotonin in the body at the risk of physical dependence.
Who Can Become Addicted To Drugs
The short answer is that anyone can become an addict. However, there are some factors that can make certain individuals more susceptible than others. Drugabuse.gov states that three of these factors are biology, environment, and development.
Biology and environment go hand in hand, in a way.
According to a study in PubMed Central, Both genetic and environmental variables contribute to the initiation of use of addictive agents and to the transition from use to addiction. Addictions are moderately to highly heritable. Family, adoption and twin studies reveal that an individuals risk tends to be proportional to the degree of genetic relationship to an addicted relativeThe moderate to high heritabilities of addictive disorders are paradoxical, because addictions initially depend on the availability of the addictive agent and the individuals choice to use it.
In other words, addiction can be genetic but is also affected by the environment in which one is raised. If drugs and alcohol are not readily available and are not considered the norm as someone is growing up, they are less likely to begin using the substances.
However, if substance abuse is common in the home they are raised in, they may be more prone to considering it normal and partaking in it themselves, leading to addiction.
This is where development also comes into the picture.
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Substance Use And Addiction Can Also Be Understood As Being On A Spectrum
People use substances for different reasons, and in varying degrees. For some people there may not be any harms related to their substance use, however, for some there may be negative impacts on their lives. Substance use and addiction can be understood as being on a spectrum, as seen in the model below.
Often the symptoms of problematic substance use and addiction can be episodic, and an individual can experience periods of increased substance use as well as periods of control. For example, casual or non-problematic substance consumption might escalate into problematic substance use if an individual is experiencing stressors in their life and using substances to cope. The substance use spectrum can be seen below:vii
A common misconception about addiction is that an individual will immediately get hooked if experimenting with an addictive substance. While many substances can be addictive, addiction isnt caused simply by the substances being consumed. For example, many people who use narcotics for post-operative pain relief do not become dependent on these substances. Addiction and substance use are often connected to a persons lived experience and their behavior patterns.
i European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. . Models of Addiction. Retrieved from:
Why Do Some People Get Addicted But Others Dont
Substance use alone doesnt cause addiction. Addiction is a complex illness that arises in a person based on their unique circumstances. These are the most commonly identified risk factors for addiction:
Biology: Scientific research has shown that 4060% of the likelihood that a person will develop addiction comes from genetics. This includes both a family history of the illness as well as epigenetics, which are “the effects environmental factors have on a person’s gene expression.” Plus, if you have a behavioral health disorder like depression or anxiety, your risk of addiction also increases.
Environment: Exposure to traumatic experiences has been shown to increase a person’s risk of developing a substance use disorder. These experiences could happen at school, at home, or out in the community.
Using drugs for the first time at a youngage can also increase addiction risk. Also, snorting or injecting drugs can increase the risk of becoming addicted to those drugs, due to the extreme way the drug is delivered into the body .
So, why do some people become addicted when others dont? Ultimately, the answer lies in a persons unique brain chemistry and lived experiences. Most people who develop addiction are looking to heal or soothe themselves in some way. Its crucial to understand why that is, and work to address it, as part of a persons treatment plan and journey to recovery.
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Where Do Stigmas Come From
Stigmas associated with mental health issues come from misguided views that these individuals are different, from everyone else. Early beliefs about what causes mental health issues included demonic or spiritual possession, which led to caution, fear, and discrimination.
Society has stereotyped views about mental illness and how it affects people. The role of media in mental health stigmas also cannot be denied. News reports often link mental illness with violence or portray those with mental health issues as dangerous, criminal, evil, or disabled often in television shows and movies.
Where Does Heroin Come From
Heroin use continues on, even as the deadly drug continues to claim lives. In 2015, more Americans died from heroin overdoses than gun violence.
Use of the highly addictive opioid has increased in recent years among most demographic groups, reports the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . That includes men and women, most age groups, and people across income levels. Women, people with private insurance, and those with higher incomes have seen the greatest increases in heroin use, the CDC reports.
While heroin certainly isnt new, its profile has heightened as it has contributed to an unprecedented public health emergency that has been called the worst in U.S. history.
The question, Where does heroin come from?, may have crossed minds because of all the news that has unfolded in recent years. To answer that question, we look at how heroin is made, where it is made in the world, and how global production of the drug is affecting the U.S.
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