To truly understand addiction we must abandon stigma and learn the facts. Thousands of studies show us that addiction is not a matter of choice. Research by leading addiction specialists proves that the disorder is composed of many factors. Yet many people still cling to the idea that an addicted individual could quit using drugs if they wanted to badly enough.
Asking questions about addiction is the best way to learn the truth about this complex disorder. But, first, let’s look at the definition of addiction. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM):
“Addiction is a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.”
So, what are the questions about addiction we should ask to further our understanding of this life-altering disorder?
Ask These Questions About Addiction to Find the Truth
Americans have an abundance of information at their fingertips all day every day. But, many of them are still uninformed about the causes of addiction and the dangers involved. So, the following questions and answers may help people get the addiction treatment they need.
#1. Are addiction and habit the same thing?
Addiction is often referred to as a bad habit. But, there is a significant difference between the two. Most habits are things a person does without thinking about them. They do it because it makes them feel good or makes things easier for them. Addiction is similar, yet it often results in negative consequences. But, regardless of those consequences, the individual is unable to stop the behavior.
#2. What causes addiction?
Drugs and alcohol contain powerful chemicals that alter brain functioning by reducing dopamine production. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the area of the brain known as the reward center. It is known as the “feel-good” hormone. Drugs or alcohol stimulate dopamine production, resulting in euphoria. With repeated use of the substance, the brain loses its ability to produce dopamine naturally. When this happens, the individual thinks more of the drug will help them feel “normal” again. Over time, uncomfortable or severe withdrawal symptoms force the person to seek more of the substance.
The severity of withdrawal symptoms depends on the duration of the addiction and the substance involved. But, these are some of the most common symptoms of withdrawal syndrome:
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.
- Muscle aches or pains.
- Tremors or shakiness.
- Mood swings, agitation, anxiety.
- Intense craving for the substance.
Several factors influence a person’s risk for developing an addiction. Here are a few examples of those contributing factors:
- Environment – Factors such as stress, peer pressure, and parental substance use can play a role in a person’s risk for addiction. Also, environmental influences such as financial status, family dysfunction, or relationship problems can be contributing factors.
- Genetic predisposition – People who have a family history of substance use are at increased risk for addiction. Studies show that genetics account for 50% of an individual’s risk for substance abuse or addiction.
- Mental health – Low self-esteem, depression, anger issues, or other mental or emotional problems can lead a person to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.
- Media influences – Substance use is blatantly promoted in movies, social media, music, and books. These platforms portray drug or alcohol use as a normal way to have fun. Young, impressionable teens get caught up in the fervor and want to be part of the crowd. As a result, we have a teenage drug epidemic in America today. Of course, many adults fall victim to the same influences.
Currently, it’s not possible to determine whether a person will become addicted or not. The above factors are merely a guideline to help answer questions about addiction that aren’t often asked.
#3. What causes cravings for drugs or alcohol?
Drugs or alcohol increase dopamine production in the brain’s reward center. The brain then learns to associate the substance with pleasure. As a result, the brain stops producing dopamine and relies on the substance to deliver those feelings of pleasure. Over time, the brain will produce withdrawal symptoms that cause the individual to crave the substance. Getting more of the drug becomes the person’s primary focus each day. The intense craving causes many people to resort to illegal behaviors to obtain their drug of choice. For this reason, drug-related crime has increased significantly today during the opioid epidemic.
#4. Are cravings a sign of addiction?
Cravings are the brain and body’s response to a lack of dopamine that the addictive substance provides. When the substance is no longer present in the body, dopamine levels drop and cravings begin. Therefore, cravings are a sign of addiction. Certain things can trigger cravings such as seeing a hypodermic needle, seeing a bottle of alcohol, or anything that reminds the person of their substance of choice.
#5. What does it mean to be in recovery?
Recovery means different things to different people. Generally, recovery begins with detox and rehab. Treatment programs like Cycles of Change Recovery assist with a person’s effort to move past their addiction. When a person is in treatment, they are referred to as being in recovery. Unfortunately, recovery has no predetermined end date. It’s something a person will face each day when they leave treatment and attempt to rebuild their life. Being in recovery means finding ways to enjoy a lifestyle that doesn’t involve drugs or alcohol.
Understanding Addiction is a Priority at Cycles of Change Recovery
At Cycles of Change Recovery, we understand that no one wants or chooses to be addicted. For that reason, our program combines compassion, respect, and expertise to ensure that our clients get the best level of treatment available today. We offer a comprehensive, individualized program that can adapt to each client’s unique needs.
If you have more questions about addiction or are ready to enter treatment, contact our facility in beautiful Palmdale, CA today.