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Sober Nation

Putting Recovery On The Map

03-29-13 | By

Where Does Addiction Come From?

Where does addiction come from?

When an addict decides that they want to live their life without their addiction of choice, it’s not as easy as simply walking away from the substance with no temptation to ever pick it up again. As a matter of fact, your brain chemistry can be altered by becoming addicted, creating both physical and psychological need for the substance. This all has to do with dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a brain chemical and is a reward center. When you are eating a delicious cake for dessert, for example, dopamine in your brain activates, making the eating of the cake a very pleasurable experience.

Multiple Types of Addiction

But food is not the only substance that lights up the circuitry in your reward center: alcohol, cocaine, nicotine, methampetamine, narcotics, and even prescription drugs. The question is, why do some people become addicted while others who engage in the same behavior do not?

Some evidence suggests that addiction can be genetic. Many studies have been done about the genetic link for alcoholism in particular, though nothing has been proved conclusively because they cannot discern whether it is a gene or an environmental factor contributing. If one has regular access to alcohol and sees a parent imbibe regularly, they may be more likely to abuse the substance. You are less likely to become an alcoholic in a country where you have less access to the substance. The same can be said for cigarettes and nicotine. (See: Types of Addiction)

Some studies also show that those from lower socio-economic status and those who suffered childhood neglect, trauma, or abuse seek out addictive substances as a means of self-medication. These substances do create a soothing, relaxing effect on the brain, bringing the addict some comfort for a brief period of time. Other contributing factors to addiction proclivities are being uneducated, unemployed, and poor. Those who live in an unsettled environment and those who also feel powerless to change their lives may find relief in addiction. Stressful events in your life, such as the death of a loved one, losing a job, or going through a divorce can also trigger the need for these chemical substances.

One’s level of addiction can depend very much on a person’s level of vulnerability to the substance. If the chosen drug causes a strong reaction in the brain’s reward center, the need for that substance increases. However, the more the substance is ingested, the more desensitized your body becomes to enjoying it, creating more and more of the substance to create the same effect.

That is what makes it so hard to quit. Dependence and withdrawal are comprised of physical symptoms that can cause an addict a great amount of discomfort.

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