Learning about the biology of addiction and how initial pleasure can turn into compulsion can help you better understand the struggles of an addict. When you think of addiction, drugs and alcohol most likely come to mind. However, people can develop addictions to many other things, including cigarettes, sex, and gambling. Regardless of the type of addiction, they’re all harmful, persistent, and compulsive and have a similar effect on the brain. In the past, people believed that a lack of willpower and morals triggered addiction.
Today, addiction is recognized as a disease that changes the brain and the way in which it functions. The biology of addiction suggests that it’s a disease that basically holds the brain hostage. Although drug use is generally voluntary, over time, the brain changes, and it becomes challenging for the user to resist the urge to take drugs; drugs become one of life’s necessities. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand this process.
The Causes of Addiction
A drug addict is someone who compulsively seeks and uses drugs and continues to do so regardless of the harmful consequences to themselves and those around them. Studies have shown that genetics and environmental and developmental factors play a significant role when it comes to addiction. For instance, a child of alcoholic parents is likely to inherit genes that would make them predisposed to alcoholism.
Additionally, the environment in which they grow up is conducive to alcohol addiction. Alcohol is likely present in the household, and they are likely to watch their parents, who they consider to be role models, drink alcohol. In addition to the past environment, the present environment can also influence addiction. Everyday problems and stress at home, school, or work can trigger someone to drink, as can peer pressure from friends who drink alcohol or use drugs. If you have a genetic predisposition for addiction, you might end up with a serious problem.
The Effects of Addiction on the Brain
The pleasant sight or smell of food triggers your brain to release dopamine, a chemical that stimulates feelings of pleasure. When you take drugs, your brain releases a much more powerful surge of dopamine that greatly exceeds that of the sight or smell of food. The addict experiences an intense, euphoric feeling. However, as the addiction progresses, the brain produces less dopamine and the pleasant aftermath becomes less intense.
The addict has now built up a tolerance, and in an effort to bring back the initial euphoric feeling, they are forced to use larger amounts of drugs. Studies have shown that long-term drug use changes parts of the brain that influence memory, decision-making, behavior control, and critical judgments. This explains why drug addicts often stop at nothing to get the drugs that they crave.
The Causes of Withdrawal
A drug addict is dependent on drugs to feel normal. Their body feels used to the drugs and can’t function without them. The moment they stops taking drugs, they experience withdrawal symptoms that are so devastating and unpleasant that they decide to start using drugs again. These withdrawal symptoms can include everything from seizures, depression, and flu-like symptoms to anxiety, hallucinations, and strokes. It’s the neurotransmitters in the brain that trigger the withdrawal effects.
They were previously suppressed by the drugs and are now acting out because they are no longer getting the drugs. Getting through the initial drug-free period is difficult because it takes a long time for the body to get used to not having drugs. Although withdrawal symptoms might initially seem mild, they can rapidly worsen. This is also why professional drug treatment is often more successful than trying to kick the habit on your own.
The Causes of Relapse
During recovery from an addiction, there’s always the chance of relapsing. There are various factors that can cause someone to relapse. Stress, for instance, can trigger someone to revert back to drug-seeking behavior. Certain emotions, such as fear, sadness, and anger, can also awaken severe cravings and make a recovering addict seek comfort in drug use.
Even certain people, places, and circumstances can be triggers to a recovering addict. During rehabilitation, drug addicts should steer clear of triggers. They also learn coping mechanisms so they know how to deal with situations that awaken the urge to go back to using drugs.
Understanding the Biology of Addiction at Morningside Recovery
At Morningside Recovery, we teach our clients about the biology of addiction as well as how addiction affects the emotional, social, and financial aspects of your life. To learn more about Morningside Recovery and our Morningside Recovery rehab center, call us today at 855-631-2135.