Addiction is the inability to abstain from an addictive substance or behavior and causes an interference with normal daily functioning. Problems in relationships, work, school and other social functions are common as the addiction takes over one’s life. Addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission, which is found with other chronic diseases.
Addiction refers to a number of chronic diseases involving the mind and body. Traditionally, addiction was primarily related to alcohol and substance dependence (heroin, pain killers, amphetamines, benzodiazepines, etc.). Today, however, addiction includes sex, love, internet, food, and gambling. All of these have in common a connection between brain reward, learning, memory and motivation. In addition, psychological and social factors influence the addictive process. The term “biopsychosocial” refers to the connection between all these processes.
The idea that addiction is a problem with will power has long been debunked. We now know that addiction involves behavioral, cognitive, emotional, genetic, and neurological domains.
Behavioral: When someone is addicted, he/she will typically spend excessive amounts of time engaging in the addiction. Much of this time is spent planning for the next “high”. For instance, many individuals addicted to heroin will spend their whole day seeking out their preferred drugs or engaging in activities to acquire money to purchase drugs.
Cognitive: Cognitive refers to thought processes. For the addicted individual, there is an excessive preoccupation with substance use. Additionally, thinking associated with a particular addiction is often distorted. For instance, an individual with a severe gambling addiction might be in denial that his gambling behavior caused him to near bankruptcy.
Emotional: Addiction often “co-occurs” with other emotional issues, such as anxiety and depression. In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) reported that 8.9 million adults have a co-occurring mental health disorder.
Genetics: For most individuals, genetic factors contribute to approximately half the likelihood that an addiction will develop. Despite the strong genetic influence, however, environmental influences, such as childhood upbringing and cultural factors, have a strong impact and can interact with how genes are expressed.
Neurological: The frontal cortex of the brain connects with other brain circuits of reward, motivation and learning to impair impulse control, alter judgments, and drive reward seeking behaviors. The sought after “high” comes from certain chemicals that become activated in the brain. Given that the frontal cortex does not fully develop until young adulthood, this can have detrimental impacts for adolescents who become addicted.
Due to the involved and complex connection of addiction, treatment of addiction can be especially complicated. Comprehensive treatment that addresses all of these areas can lead to the best recovery outcome. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, contact Dr. Mazzei at 855-875-HELP (4357) to start the recovery process.
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