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Addiction - A description
Addiction is a very complex subject. The
following is short explanation of it.
Substance addiction is a double edged sword. It is a physical compulsion coupled with a mental obsession with the substance being the focus. Because it attacks from these two fronts, it is an extremely hard problem to deal with. The disease is progressive, incurable and fatal, but can be arrested at almost any stage.
There is more and more evidence mounting to suggest that it is a genetic condition, an inherited intolerance. Addiction is a disease that affects around 5% of the worlds' population. The disease concept I will expand on in another article, as this is a controversial subject.
A person having a genetic predisposition to the disease is usually not aware of it. The threshold between abuse and addiction is invisible and different in all individual sufferers. Some people can be successful social drinkers for years, and then - literally overnight, become alcoholic. Others, like myself, are addicted from the first experience.
The pattern of addiction is this:
- A drug is consumed and creates a desirable effect (not necessarily a high, it may be just a feeling of contentment or oblivion or pain relief)
- The behavior is repeated because of the desired effects
- The brain builds a tolerance to the substance, so it takes more each time to achieve the same effect. As addiction sets in, these original sensations that are pursued are never achieved again.
- The brain becomes "used" to the substance and creates triggers when the substance is not used to turn the persons attention towards it (cravings).
- After a period , the person is spending more time thinking about the drug and therefore retarding mental and emotional growth as these thought patterns become deeply entrenched. Aside from the undesirable effects of the abuse of the drug itself, one of the outcomes of being so preoccupied with the substance is that it prevents healthy relationships from being formed and maintained.
- After a further period of time, the brain also sends out physical indicators when the drug is not being used (sweating, shaking), known as withdrawals. These physical symptoms are caused by a release of chemicals that occurs while the drug is being used, especially in the case of CNS (Central Nervous System) depressants such as alcohol. The drug is depressing the CNS, so the brain counteracts with "stimulants" in an attempt to achieve balance. When the consumption of the drug is suddenly stopped, the brain is continuing to produce these chemicals at high concentrations which effectively send the body and brain into "overload". This overload can present itself in grand mal seizures and can be severe enough to cause death. Alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs to withdraw from.
- Because the sufferer is caught between the states of either being under the influence, recovering from the last consumption or thinking about the next one, their lives and the lives of all those around them become severely affected. High absenteeism from employment due to intoxication/associated physical illness and the expense of the substance leads to loss of work, social standing, financial security and self esteem. This sparks off a whole series of problems within self and family. If the person is approached by a loved one about the problem, this can create a strong defensive reaction. Lying and deceit now sets in.
If the drug is illegal, usage creates a network of people around the sufferer who are in the same situation to ensure a constant supply. Because substances sometimes cost a great deal of money, the person learns the "tricks of the trade" to procure it - mainly prostitution and theft. What would have at one stage be considered "insanity" by the sufferer, slowly becomes normal as this network of people begins to play a bigger role in their life.
Because most drugs decrease inhibition and impair areas of the brain which control aggression and memory, incidents occur whilst under the influence which would be considered out of character for the person. As periods of intoxication increase, so do the incidents. As the impairment to these areas of the brain increase, the incidents may become more violent. Once again what was considered "insane" now becomes normal for the person.
The above pattern is repeated many times and becomes ingrained, so even when the usage is totally stopped, many of the thought patterns and coping mechanisms are still there. Ceasing the consumption is not enough, the sufferer needs to learn how to cope mentally and emotionally through life without the substance and how to integrate back into mainstream society again. This can take many years.
Even after long periods of cessation from the substance, the brain remembers it. When the addict begins using again, the downhill slide is very quick. You do not get to start from scratch. Addiction does not disappear. It's in me....but it sleeps.... I am lucky that recognize I now have a conscious choice whether I wake it or not.
Addiction is not a weak person's "designer disease". It just makes people weak......
Copyright information.... This article is free for reproduction but must be reproduced in its entirety along with the authors' name and web site link. This copyright statement must be also be included. (c) 2001 - 2007 Michael Bloch, World Wide Addiction.com,. All rights reserved.
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