Understanding Addiction, the Brain, Detox Drug Rehab
What Can Become Addictions
Most people relate addiction to a person being dependant of drugs and/or alcohol and they believe these are the only kinds of addictions that need intervention, rehab, and support. Scientifically speaking, a person can become addicted to almost anything. One does not become addicted to drugs and alcohol in the way that most people think. The complexity of addiction takes place within the brain and has to do with what happens to the chemical structure inside the brain. Can a person become addicted to drugs? Yes. Can a person become addicted to alcohol or cigarettes? Yes. Everyone would say YES to these questions because we consider them addicting, drug-like substances, BUT is shopping, gambling, sex, or food an addicting, drug-like substance? I think most would agree and say no. Everyone shops, we all have to eat, sex is a normal act, and many have enjoyed a fun game of poker with friends. So how exactly do we become addicted to those things?!
Complexity of Addiction, How a Person Can Become an Addict- Brain Damage
Let’s start with drugs and how we become addicted. Almost all drugs target the “reward center” of the brain by causing an unnatural increase in a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) called dopamine. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter of the brain that controls emotions, learning, motivation, and the sense of pleasure or satisfaction. It makes us feel happy and satisfied.
This is how it affects learning. Let’s say that we’re trying to teach a child how to tie his shoe. We work very hard day after day with teaching him and he gets frustrated and upset. Then one day, he gets it, he ties his own shoe all by himself. You praise and reward him with a cookie and this causes the release of dopamine in the child’s brain making him feel happy after all his hard work and frustration. Dopamine is also what kept him motivated through all of his frustration, the drive to get the reward. This neurotransmitter is responsible for how we learn through motivation and reward processes that chemically occur in the brain. Whether it’s praise, a cookie, or our own pat on the back, the brain releases dopamine making us feel good.
This is how addiction works in a sense. We take a drug and our brains release unusual levels of dopamine making us feel great. The drug wears off and the dopamine level drops making us need more of the addicting substance to feel good again. After the brain and body adapt or become tolerant to the inappropriate stimulation and release of dopamine, we need more and more of the drug to feel good at all. When the brain stops releasing dopamine appropriately from natural stimuli, we become addicted. The addicted person is not really needing the drugs but needing the dopamine that the drugs have inappropriately stimulated over a period of time. Once the brain needs an addicting substance to release dopamine, a person is classified as addicted and brain damage or brain disease has occurred. The brain is simply damaged and can’t produce the proper amount of dopamine without being stimulated by the drugs.
Other Forms of Addiction
So what about addictions like shopping, gambling, sex, and food? Well, the same cycle happens as with drugs. These things can stimulate a repeated, unusual release of dopamine also. After time, the brain becomes dependant on this inappropriate amount of dopamine, just like it would with drugs. This again, is what causes the addiction. A person needs more and more of “whatever” is causing the inappropriate release of dopamine. The person “learns” that they need the addicting substance to get the “reward” being dopamine to make them feel good, in cases of addiction.
Of course, tying your shoes isn’t an addiction because it was learned through a natural reward process and not an overly stimulated, unnatural reward process. The child learns thru normal brain function and after they’ve tied their shoes so many times, it’s not near as rewarding as the first time. They move on to the next new learning and rewarding experience. A true addict can’t move on, the addiction takes control of everything in their life. Often times, they turn to more dangerous addictions to be able to get the same high.
Addiction Rehab, Detox Drug Rehab, and Other Addiction Treatments
Through all of my research, I found plenty of addiction rehabs, detox drug rehabs, drug addiction treatment programs, addiction intervention, drug free rehabs, etc. I was quite concerned with the lack of information and help offered to those with other forms of addiction. With ANY addiction there needs to be intervention, detox, rehab, and ongoing support because the brain is damaged and doesn’t just repair itself over night. Recovery from addiction causes the brain and body to be in a constant state of overwhelming desire and need due to withdrawals. The withdrawal symptoms, like severe depression, do fade over time but the brain never does fully recover from the damage caused by addiction. A recovering addict of any kind will always remain in a weakened state needing constant support and natural forms of motivation, reward, and confidence.
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