The experiences of addiction
While current research shows that genetics (see the mu-opioid blog entry) and brain physiology (see the amygdala blog entry) play an important role in addiction none of these third order factors are experienced by the inpidual's whom is addicted.
The inpidual's experience of addiction has at least one of the following common factors:
- The substances effects at first reward the user with pleasurable feelings and mood alterations.
- Over time the body develops a tolerance to the substance of abuse such that more is needed to get the pleasurable reward that the body and mind now craves.
- If the addict tries to abruptly stop using their substance of abuse painful, and in some cases, life threatening withdrawal occurs.
- The psychological aspects of addiction also come into play such that euphoric memories and ritualized behaviors reinforce the addicts desire to use.
- Over time the physiology and chemistry of the brain itself is changed.
- The addict develops elaborate denial mechanism to be able to continue to use despite the consequences or the risks involved. The foregoing is best described a syndrome of addiction rather than a simple disease.
How treatment works to overcome or at least diminish the harm of this syndrome will be our next blog.