When trying to understand your or a loved one’s addiction, it’s helpful to keep in mind the chemical and psychological effects that continued substance abuse can have on the brain. Ignorance of this information often causes extra tension to relationships. Listed below are some of the important things to consider about addiction: the cause, developing a tolerance, and finally the compulsion to keep abusing drugs. Remember that addiction is considered a chronic disease and it will take time, effort, and advice from a substance abuse counselor to get you or your loved one back on the road to recovery.
The Cause of Addiction
In the past, the common belief was addiction is something that could be overcome with willpower alone. People that couldn’t recover were weak-willed or morally flawed in the eyes of society and medical professionals. Today we understand that addiction is caused by chemical changes in the brain that create compulsive behavior and continue to degenerate with continued substance abuse. To the person using the substance, the addiction comes from the pleasurable sensation from a release of dopamine within the cerebral cortex.
Building a Tolerance
After continued substance abuse, the body will naturally build a tolerance for the chemical pleasure brought to the individual. The brain will respond by either eliminating dopamine receptors or releasing less dopamine overall. To this person, they will find they need to either take more of this substance or move on to a much more powerful drug to get the same level of pleasure.
Compulsion to Addiction
Eventually the person will reach a point where they can no longer get the same high, but the memory and urge to recreate this pleasure continue to compel the person to abuse drugs. In this way, their behavior starts to change. They will begin to associate certain people and places with their addiction and fall into the habit of ritualistically doing things that contribute to their continued substance abuse.
The first step is to seek help from a professional substance abuse counselor to better understand the techniques and strategies associated with your level of addiction. The person may need to enter into a rehab center depending on the severity of their addiction.