Addiction is a deadly, progressive disease which affects people of all walks of life. There are a wide range of factors, including predisposed genetics, traumatic early childhood, physical or sexual abuse, the environment a child is raised in and doctor prescribed opioids or benzos, to name a few, that can affect an individual headed down the life path of addiction.
Below we will discuss in further detail how addiction works, the addict brain vs normal brain factors that influence addiction and how to help people suffering with addiction.
What are the factors that influence addiction?
Scientists and Doctors have studied addiction for years and there are a variety of factors that can influence addiction. Addiction has been listed as a disease according to the Canadian Medical Association and American Medical Association. It is listed as disease of the brain that is treatable and curable. Predisposed genetics are a big factor which will explain why the cycle of addiction runs rampant through families making it a “family disease”.
Childhood trauma can be one of the earliest signs of someone experiencing a life of addiction, as well as how they are raised with their parents. Perhaps drugs and alcohol are always available and that is what a child sees as a normal way of life. Many people experience trauma and don’t fall down the road of addiction. This is because of the inner makings of the brain and what can be described as an allergy. Once an addict has a substance it is in their system and their body processes it different and they want more and more until they can’t physically stop. There is an obsession where the mind takes over and that substance consumers their thoughts and takes over until they numb again, turning into a vicious cycle.
Once someone is in addiction a factor that can keep them in the cycle is associating with other addicts. It keeps them in the same community and they feel what they are doing is not so bad as everyone around them is doing the same things.
Addict Brain vs Normal Brain
While it’s true that an addict makes the choice for the first drink, hit or smoke, but there comes a time when they are physically unable to turn down using or drinking. What started as trying something, turns into a mental obsession where it can be all the addict thinks about; be it thinking about when they can drink or use next, how they will get more as they are using/drinking and then trying to explain it all away.
Addiction has a lot to do with decreased activity in the front cortex of our brains. The dopamine reward system is what is felt when anyone has a pleasurable experience or uses drugs or alcohol. Substances affect the dopamine reward system and can completely disrupt communication in the brain. This changes the state of the brain making it difficult to get the brain back to a normal state. This is why a lot of addicts act on impulse or ignore their intuition and get themselves into difficult situations – the communication in the brain is not functioning properly.
Eventually the desire for the pleasure feelings from the dopamine is replaced with a physical desire for the drug. This is when the addict has lost control over their actions. Even if they want to stop and know it’s wrong; physically they can’t. A lot will get physically ill without their DOC (drug of choice)
A person with a normal brain can’t understand why someone would make these “choices”. There is very often judgement that the addict lacks morals and willpower or is just lazy. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Many addicts recover from this mental disease of the brain and leave extremely productive, amazing lives where they are making a difference in their community. One addict understands another addicts brain and thinking and can be an extremely beneficial resource to help.
Why do different theories of addiction exist?
Different theories of addiction exist as it is the only disease that can be self-diagnosed and is treatable should the individual put the work in. So one would say it’s not a disease as we don’t choose to have cancer but we choose to be an addict. Unless one is an addict, they really can’t speak to how it feels to live in turmoil and with this constant obsession in your brain. There is a level of self-sabotage and the cycle repeats itself. The addict wants to get out of it, but the obsession of the mind takes over and so the cycle repeats itself. Shameful things are done and instead of knowing how to fix those things, the addict uses again to numb the feelings of the shameful behavior they created. It is a level on insanity once doesn’t know unless they have experienced it.
How to help people with addictions
Living with, caring for or loving someone in active addiction is a tumultuous, painful process. Tough love is always discussed as an option but when you love someone it can be extremely difficult to follow through. Unfortunately, many addicts need to hit their own bottom and be ready to clean up their lives. Enabling is what a lot of family members or friends do and that is not the solution. It only allows the addict to carry on with their same behaviours. When an addict can’t find their way of addiction, a professional intervention can be an extremely viable solution. A Professional Interventionist is someone who has lived a life of addiction and turned their life around. They are part of a recovery community, live in recovery and are helping those struggling with addiction. There is a cost to this process, but it is minimal compared to a life of living an addiction and the damage it does to the family, friends and the addict themselves, if not death, as that is always were addiction leads to. The role of the Interventionist is to get the addict to a reputable treatment centre, where they can detox and start learning how to live life substance free.
In conclusion, people become addicted for a variety of reasons and there are different theories on this. Although a variety of factors and theories can be reviewed infinitely, there is a solution to help the addict – an interventionist.