What is addiction, exactly? According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, an addiction is treatable brain disease which affects the thoughts and actions of an individual. In America, it is estimated that one in seven individuals struggles with addiction. An individual struggling with addiction may wish to quit using due to negative consequences but continues to use after failed attempts at quitting. Addiction is a disease that does not have a preference for age, gender, ethnicity, religion, or social status. It can affect anyone, and just like any other disease, recovering is not a matter of willpower; it’s a matter of gaining effective treatment.
Addiction and abuse are terms quite frequently used synonymously. But, they are a bit different. Substance abuse is when an individual may experience a few symptoms of addiction, but not all. So, although substance abuse may lead to an addiction, it is not as severe just yet. Addiction is when an individual exhibits more than just a few symptoms of addiction, and does not stop using the drug of choice even after experiencing obvious consequences due to addiction.
More than just a lack of willpower, addiction actually affects the chemical reactions of the brain. Addictive substances cause the brain to release naturally produced chemicals like dopamine which produce euphoric effects. These chemicals are utilized as a reward system that encourages us to perform tasks that our true our nature including eating, sleeping, and reproducing. When these chemicals are constantly being released because of drug use, the body becomes confused and starts to only administer the chemicals when the drug is present in the body. This means that an individual will only experience that euphoric reward response when drugs are used, resulting in an everlasting chase for that experience and inevitable addictive behaviors.
A defining characteristic of addiction is the consequences an individual experiences. These consequences of addiction can affect all areas of life; school, work, friends, family, intimate relationships, dreams, goals, and more. A big myth surrounding the addiction recovery industry is that an individual can’t decide to get help through treatment without hitting rock bottom. Rock bottom is a termed used in describing a state when an individual has nowhere else to turn. But, for many, unfortunately, rock bottom is death. You don’t have to wait until death to decide you need help. You can get the help that you need to recover from addiction TODAY.
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