What causes addiction?

Photo: reviewsphere
by Sam Muir

A dependency on anything; regardless of its physical state is often associated with the production of hostile or dangerous circumstances. On the frontier of addiction are illegal drugs, gambling and alcohol abuse. An addict, at times, has seemingly no control over their addiction and it manipulates the direction of their life in order to continue an unhealthy consumption of the “source.”

An addiction is categorised into either a substance dependence (drugs) or a behavioural addiction (MNT, 2016). Addiction, which was once classed as a physical illness, responsible for physical altercation of the brain has since been re-classified to incorporate psychological dependency. This is due to the likelihood of addiction to temporarily subject the victim to “new” emotions.

Since there is mixed and generally inconclusive scientific evidence to pinpoint precisely why and how an addiction forms, one hypothesis often theorised, is the inability the afflicted has to self-medicate and normalise themselves without said addiction (NBC, 2015). For instance, cocaine temporarily masks depression. Heroin is renowned for alleviating hallucinations or schizophrenia. Sex relieves stress. Depending on personality traits and genetics of the individual the addiction differs to suit. In addition to the condition, the drugs help the victim feel “normal.” This sense of normality is chased, and the ideology is to replicate the same euphoria causing one to repeatedly prioritise something of little importance yet such high detriment.

Similarly, a number of psychiatrists correlate addiction to those with a poor ability to self-regulate stress, among other emotions. An activity that relieves an individual of stress is likely to be repeated to continue the relaxation, causing the individual to ignore and dismiss potentially dangerous side effects. The ignorance of a habit can subconsciously transform it, to become an addiction.

Photo: Sam Muir
Photo: Sam Muir

The way to distinguish a habit from an addiction is that an addiction frequently results in a tolerance whereby the user requires more “substance” more often to deliver a similar feeling. Aside from this the addict will be in denial of any possible detriment caused by their addiction. There is, however physical changes that indicate this is reversible. The substance causes (usually temporary) change to neurons. Said neurons use chemical neurotransmitters to communicate, and the changes caused by drugs disrupts the efficiency of communication. Repeated exposure to such a rapid release of dopamine caused by drug use leads neurons to associate enjoyment with necessity. In other words, the brain informs the user that the primary concern is to consume the substance that the brain has newly associated with pleasure.

To conclude, addiction delivers a great deal of unpleasantries that ultimately lead to the downfall of the individual and their health. The changes are often reversible but with physical substance abuse comes withdrawal symptoms. The question of most interest is whether addiction is more duly noted by psychology or medicine.

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1 Comment

  1. Habits can be acquired for all sorts of reasons but why these become compulsive to the point of dependence for some people and not others, is still debatable -although the biochemistry of the brain (often genetic) clearly plays a major part.

     

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