Addiction Disorders – What is Addiction?

Addiction is a term that can often get thrown around when describing a variety of different behaviors and habits. However, medically speaking, addiction is quite a specific situation. Because of constant issues throughout the country, including the need for affordable healthcare, pervasive homelessness, and the absence of effective drug prevention education, the United States is currently going through a substance abuse crisis. The dependence addiction creates can lead to significant social, medical, and financial issues in a person’s life, which is why it’s very important to recognize the causes and the consequences of addiction and to seek help whenever recognized.

What is Addiction?

Addiction refers to the patterned use of an addictive substance, which can include drugs and alcoholic beverages, in which the user in question is consuming it to a degree that is causing them harm and creating dependence. The exact way in which a user’s health is compromised by addiction will, of course, depend on the substance they are using, but most involve a change in the brain’s chemistry that requires a constant intake of the substance in order to function “normally”. Substance abuse can also have a lot of consequences not necessarily related to a person’s health, such as anti-social behavior, personality changes, and even violent tendencies. 

Causes of Addiction

The evident first cause of addiction is obviously the intake of the substance itself. Drugs and alcoholic beverages can create a dependence if used in excess. This can happen to anybody who subjects themselves to substance use in large quantities, but there are actually genetic and environmental risk factors that can make certain individuals more prone to developing an addiction disorder. Psychosocial and environmental factors can come into play and contribute to addiction vulnerability. That doesn’t mean that the person’s behavior itself, that’s to say the use of the substance, wasn’t a factor in the development of the addiction, but it does mean that it is easier for some people to develop a dependence on a substance than it is for others.

 

This means that addiction will have both physiological and psychological components. Physiologically, the body becomes used to the constant intake of the substance in question, which eventually creates a “new normal” in the body. That’s what makes it so hard for the user to cut use after a while, the body now requires the substance in order to work properly because the abuse has altered the homeostatic process. Psychologically, you have the reasons the person sought the soothing aspects of substance use in the first place. These will obviously vary from person to person, but they can be commonly be traced back to instances of depression, grief, loss, homelessness, poverty, abuse, trauma, or similar overwhelming circumstances. 

Treating Addiction Disorders

Treating addiction is a delicate matter, the specifics of which will ultimately depend on the specific case of each patient. However, each treatment will follow a similar structure that first addresses physiological issues, a stage that will consist of detoxifying the body and ridding it of any traces of the addictive substance. The next step will be to take care of the underlying psychological causes of the addiction, which will be key in preventing any further relapses.