• What’s the Cause Behind Addictive Behaviors?

    by Caroline Ryther
    on Nov 5th, 2018

The term “addiction” refers to a person’s physical and psychological inability to stop consuming a certain drug, substance, chemical, or activity despite it causing the said person harm. Addiction is a serious, chronic condition that can often result in severe consequences for an individual, including death. In fact, the overuse of prescribed opioid painkillers causes 115 deaths on a daily basis in the US.

So, what is the actual cause behind addiction? Our brain possesses the so-called “reward pathways” which are activated whenever we experience positive feelings, such as exercising, eating delicious food, or spending time with family, i.e. rewarding behaviors. It’s only natural that, when we find something that feels good, we are drawn towards repeating these behaviors in order to regain those positive feelings.

The process is similar when people who opt to use addictive substances—as voluntary as this use is in the beginning, it eventually turns into something an individual can’t quit. A drug or alcohol will make them feel good, the circuits in their brain will reward them for the positive feelings, and soon enough they will begin repeating these behaviors in the hopes of feeling great once more.

And when the urge to consume more and more of a certain substance becomes so strong that it takes over the rewarding circuits, addiction sets in.

Euphoria Goes Away, But Addiction Stays

All addictive substances have one thing in common: they leave an individual feeling euphoric by releasing large amounts of dopamine in brain regions which are in charge of our reward circuits. After a while, these substances stop causing the same rewarding feelings that they used to, leaving a lot of people trying to abstain from taking any of them. In this case, individuals addicted to drugs, alcohol, or an activity will begin to experience symptoms of withdrawal and go back to using in the hopes of feeling “normal”.

Another reason that can contribute to the development of an addictive disorder is that drugs and alcohol can severely change how our prefrontal cortex functions, i.e. affect the section of our brain that is responsible for executive decision-making. Because of this, addicts are unable to recognize the consequences of their behavior and can’t make the decision to stop using drugs.

Of course, whether addiction develops or not depends also on the type of substance a person takes. So, for example, opioids are highly addictive, seeing that they target brain receptors directly, while marijuana is considered to be less addictive, because it targets the reward and pleasures centers of our brains.

It’s Important to Seek Help as Soon as Possible

As mentioned above, addiction is a serious disorder that can often have fatal consequences. It can lower the quality of life of an individual significantly and affect the lives of people around them, as well. Because of this, it’s of utmost importance to seek help the moment you notice someone you know is becoming dependent on an addictive substance.

Dr. Best and the Neuroscience Center team have years of experience dealing with different types of addiction and withdrawal, and they are there to make sure you or your loved one get back on the healthy path of your life, and get rid of this terrible disorder.

Schedule your consultation today:

Phone: 847-306-8938

Email: pm@mind.md

Author Caroline Ryther

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