Addictions are often described as an intense desire to use particular substances or activities, even at the detriment of work and family. They may start as a relatively mild preference but quickly snowball out of control under the wrong circumstances.
Compulsions, or irresistible urges, can become so intense, addicts will forgo basic life-necessities in favor of getting their next fix. When the addiction becomes this severe, it often leads to a seemingly never-ending cycle of life-threatening decisions. Common warning signs of addiction include alienation from friends and family, problems at work, money trouble, and even distinct personality changes.
Addiction of any kind is likely to become a source of stress for everyone involved. Loved ones are forced to pay extra attention to addicts in an effort to limit progression and relapses. For the addict, not only is addiction a source of mental strain, but it quite often manifests as physical weakening as well.
The first time using a given substance, or doing an activity such as gambling, is usually a voluntary decision. However, when reward responses in the brain are taken over by a particular stimulus, such as drugs, eating, or sex, this results in addiction. Making matters worse, the brain circuitry changes which occur alongside long-term substance abuse often take a long time to recover from fully.
That said, addiction is a very complicated topic we’re only just beginning to actually grasp. For instance, experts now believe using drugs or alcohol to help moderate your mood could have a larger impact on your prefrontal cortex than other types of addiction. Meanwhile, evidence also shows your genetic makeup plays a profound role in how your body reacts to substance abuse.
Addiction is one of the most common conditions in the world, with an estimated 72 million people in the US alone dealing with a significant addiction problem at one point in their lives. The most commonly abused substance in America is alcohol, followed by drugs, sex, food, and gambling. Sadly, reports also indicate only around 10% of people ever receive any treatment for their substance abuse issues.
If you’re worried that you or a loved one may be struggling with an addiction, be sure to consult with a doctor as soon as possible. It’s always best to check in with an expert before deciding how to move forward.