What Causes Addiction?

What Causes Addiction?

When voluntary use of chemical substances leads to addiction, the drug user is no longer using the substances recreationally. Extended drug use will inevitably lead to drug abuse and misuse and physical dependency. Over time, alcohol or drugs interact with the central nervous system, causing changes in the brain which are manifested through emotional, physical and psychological behavior that is uncharacteristic of the drug user. Eliminating the problem requires professional treatment that often begins with detoxification processes and continues with counseling and therapy.

Drug Effects on the Brain

Neurotransmitters are chemicals the brain uses to send signals between neurons. Different transmitters send messages that cause numerous responses. Addiction to alcohol or drugs takes place in the reward pathways of the brain. These areas activate and release dopamine and other neurotransmitters that will trigger feelings of joy and elation. With continued or extensive drug use and abuse, the brain chemistry begins changing. Substances either overstimulate the release of neurotransmitters, or block signals from being received.

Most chemical substances affect the brain's reward pathways directly or indirectly by altering dopamine levels. Dopamine regulates emotions, degrees of motivation, the sensation of pleasure and physical movement. Neurons commonly initiate dopamine release when doing something equated with pleasure. The chemical produces a "feel good" sensation.

When taking cocaine or methamphetamines, cells emit abnormally high levels of dopamine and other chemicals, which cause a feeling of euphoria. These substances also prevent the normal reabsorption of these transmitters, creating abnormal communications. On the other hand, heroin or marijuana have similar chemical structures as certain neurotransmitters. In the presence of these compounds, brain cells do not respond by releasing dopamine, allowing the drugs to send the signals between neurons. As a result, the brain produces less dopamine and reduces the number of receptors. Cells become increasingly dependent on artificial chemicals.

An addiction worsens when the addict must continue to keep dopamine levels constant or to replace the supply when the brain decreases production. As neurotransmitter production continues slowing down, the user must take higher dosages of the substance to get the same effect. Eventually, habitual chemical dependency causes physiological changes in other areas of the brain. These regions affect behavior, decision-making, memory and learning, along with the ability to exercise critical thinking. The cells' need for drugs in order to function becomes the driving force behind drug-seeking.

The severity of the alcohol/drug addiction factors into the extent to which clients suffer symptoms of withdrawal during detox. When seeking professional addiction rehabilitation, it is important to find a facility equipped to handle this phase of therapy. We can help you find a place. When you're ready to stop the endless cycle of dependence, call us at (616) 828-4790. We will be glad to help you with your search for a rehab center.

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