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What is Addiction?

Serious scientific exploration about addiction began decades ago; since the development of brain scans, new data has informed addiction treatment. Improved protocols for treating addiction have emerged. The shifts are based upon this new understanding of brain functioning and visual evidence of drug influence on brain function. To understand the connection between addiction and brain function, it is best to explore the most recent definition developed by the American Society of Addiction Medicine: Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.


There are several factors that aid in a person’s shift toward addictive behavior. These factors include genetic, psychosocial and environmental influences. These factors are necessary to understand how a person becomes addicted.


In simpler terms, addiction is the seeking of a substance or behavior that is ongoing despite the negative consequences. This simple definition can include substance abuse (drug and/or alcoholism), addictive behaviors such as gambling, sex, pornography, shopping, as well as emotional and psychological addictions such as raging, workaholism, and eating disorders. The signs and symptoms of addiction are always clear. Addiction is not subtle; the impact of addiction is profound both on the individual suffering from addiction as well as those who are in the person’s sphere of relationships.


Addictive behavior includes:

  • Loss of control

  • Cravings

  • Compulsion

  • Awareness of and continued use despite negative consequences


Everyone who suffers from addiction has also suffered from changes in brain function. The brain changes in function related to reward, memory, and motivation bring about physical dependence, tolerance, and withdrawal.


At times, the underlying cause for a substance abuse disorder or addiction can be directly linked to a mental health disorder such as Depression, PTSD, or Anxiety. Other times, the use of substances and addictive behaviors can bring the onset of a mental health disorder. The inter-connectedness of mental health disorders and addiction must be addressed, or the state of both the mental health disorder and the addiction will worsen. In fact, according to the Government’s Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment, 6 out 10 people with an addiction (legal or illegal) also suffer from a mental health disorder.


The Choice to Get Addiction Treatment


Addiction in any form is a serious matter, sometimes, breaking the addiction means life or death. The complexities of addiction preclude a simple renunciation of the habit. It is more than will power. The good news—addiction is treatable, but it takes a desire to get better and a sincere effort to do the necessary work.


Best practices are guidelines that Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, the Joint Commission and the American Society of Addiction Medicine have released. Addiction treatment protocols were developed and studied utilizing the scientific data. These protocols comprise what today are the principals for successful treatment programs.


The complexity of a person’s life: his or her childhood, education, work history, physical condition, emotional and psychological state, trauma history, criminal history and substance abuse history, as well as the present state of substance abuse must be obtained. This multidisciplinary approach to addiction treatment requires a variety of therapies to uncover the real life issues.


What are the Signs and Symptoms of Addiction?

The development of an addiction can take a long time or it can happen rapidly. People tend to move into addictive behaviors casually. Certainly, no one ever chooses to become an addict or an alcoholic. No one wishes to become a slave to a substance or an activity such as gambling, sex, or pornography, to mention a few.


There are several identifiable stages to the addiction process. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, these stages include:


  1. Experimentation: Voluntary use of alcohol, drugs, or risky behaviors characterizes the experimentation stage. Sometimes, experimentation is in response to peer pressure, sometimes it is an attempt to ease stress, anxiety or fear. The initial use provides the addict with a wonderful sensation of either getting high, or calming down.

  2. Regular Use: Once the user decides he or she wants that feeling again and again, regular use begins. This stage may still be social in context and may not even happen every day, but it does happen consistently. The choice to use the substance can happen when certain feelings arise such as loneliness, anger, boredom etc.

  3. Risky Use: Negative implications arise from continued use. These can be legal problems (driving while intoxicated or stealing money for drugs), financial problems (spending money on substances before paying the bills), behavioral problems (poor work performance, poor grades in school), accidents (automobile accidents, physical fights, falling).

  4. Dependence: The more one uses a substance, such as drugs or alcohol, the greater the level of tolerance. The brain’s ability to function in a normal pattern is interrupted and altered by the presence of the substance. Dependence becomes the controlling reality in the user’s life.

  5. Addiction: Substance use becomes compulsive and out of control. The individual no longer has a choice about using, the body demands the substance at regular intervals (cravings) or withdrawal symptoms begin. At this point, the user has changed everything about his or her life for the worst. Responsibilities to others and indeed, to self no longer exist. All the user cares about is getting the substance and avoiding withdrawal. Life in the normal context has ceased to exist; addiction has taken over.


Other signs and symptoms of addiction can be:


  • Lack of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyed activities

  • Lack of personal hygiene

  • Lack of appetite

  • Loss of motivation

  • Change of friends

  • Mood changes

  • Physical ailments: tachycardia, high blood pressure, respiratory problems

  • Loss of balance

  • Loss of motor coordination

  • Loss of memory

  • Confusion

  • Shakes

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Weight gain or loss

  • Denial

  • Depression (other mental health disorders not present before addiction)


There are many more symptoms that can be directly related to the drug of choice.

The only way to break the addiction is to get help.


Infinite Mindcare Offers Addicts a Solution

No one has to live in active addiction. Treatment does help stop addiction and provide the client with the knowledge, tools, and support to remain in recovery. Recovery needs to be understood as a life-long commitment, one worth the time, the pain, and effort to regain your life. Infinite Mindcare uses best practices to break the patterns associated with addiction. It provides clients with a multidisciplinary therapeutic environment to alter addictive behaviors, thinking patterns, manage cravings, and handle life’s challenges in self-affirming ways. Our staffs of highly trained and experienced therapists are dedicated to helping clients succeed. We want our clients to re-engage in life as happy, healthy productive human beings.



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