What Is Addiction

The concept of addiction—whether to alcohol, cigarettes, heroin, or sexual behavior—is widely misunderstood. Although there is room for debate about the levels of addiction caused by different substances, and perhaps about the rights of people to use addictive substances, there is no debate about what constitutes addiction. Addictive disease is defined by compulsion, loss of control, and continued, repeated use despite adverse consequences. Even though a person knows what will happen, he or she will use the addictive substance again. Thus, addiction is a disease characterized by repetitive and destructive use of one or more substances, and stems from a biological vulnerability exposed or induced by environmental factors such as drug taking.

Until scientists learned how popular recreational drugs such as cocaine affected the brain, it was thought that addiction required a physical withdrawal syndrome. That is not necessarily true. While a mild withdrawal has been described, positive effects drive compulsive use of cocaine. This information has contributed to research that clearly indicates there is no valid distinction between physical and psychological addiction.

Anyone who uses any chemical in the way described above is suffering from addictive disease. Users are distinguished by the type of drug, genetic vulnerabilities, individual predisposition to addiction, and the setting in which the drug is used.

Addiction includes preoccupation with the acquisition of a drug. In general, when obtaining a drug plays a central role in a person's life, addiction is present or near. Many studies have shown that addicts rank finding and using their drug above work, family, religion, hunger, sex, and survival. Even when the high is no longer achieved, the drug and its use are paramount. Drug taking fools the brain, giving the user a false sense of accomplishment that is at odds with reality, to the point that denial is common.

Since drugs cause a chronic disease in an otherwise healthy person, staying clean, or straight, becomes a daily problem. Relapse, therefore, is another significant and expected part of addictive disease. It is common for addicts to have relatively long periods of abstinence intermingled with drug-use binges. Chemical addiction does not happen overnight. Addicts are not moral failures but victims of a disease.

If addiction is understood as defined above, it is easy to see why it can be called a process: Use leads to brain changes; tolerance leads to abuse, which leads to loss of control, chemical dependence, and addiction.

Anxiety and Depression 101

Anxiety and Depression 101

Everything you ever wanted to know about. We have been discussing depression and anxiety and how different information that is out on the market only seems to target one particular cure for these two common conditions that seem to walk hand in hand.

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