How to Understand Addiction

Addiction comes in many forms. It is considered a disease by health professionals, characterized by physical and psychological dependence on mind-altering substances that include but are not limited to alcohol, cocaine, crystal meth, prescription pills and heroin. Addictive behavior also extends to compulsive gambling, sex and love, and eating disorders.

Signs and symptoms will become apparent but are often difficult to see at first, as an addict can always rationalize his or her behavior. Symptoms include an increased tolerance to a substance or behavior and withdrawal symptoms when it is abruptly stopped.

Any mind-altering substance or behavior, if taken or done over an extended period of time, can affect the brain’s functioning. As these substances affect the “reward” and “pleasure” parts of the brain, they can over time, confuse the brain into thinking they are necessary for everyday life.

Over time, this change in brain functioning can result in behavioral or psychological changes that can include drastic mood swings, irritability, irrational anger, the inability to complete daily tasks that used to be easy, among many. In many cases, the addicted person’s relationships will change and be affected – and loved ones will be put under immense stress.

Another strong indicator of addiction is when a person continues to drink or use drugs despite a series of negative consequences. He or she may face things such as a DUI conviction, losing or quitting a job, failing out of school, or losing important relationships and still cannot put down the drink or drug. They may stop for a short amount time until the air clears a bit, then they continue on their road of addiction. In many cases, the addict or alcoholic cannot even see the negative effects drinking or using is having on their life, and justifies each thing that happens as someone else’s fault. Denial is a powerful tool, strong enough that the addict may convince themselves and others that they do not have a problem. Though there are certain questions that can help a family member or a friend determine whether or not the person they see struggling is an addict or an alcoholic, the only diagnosis that truly matters is that person’s own.

People often want to know what the origin of alcoholism or addiction is. Research shows that these diseases are usually a combination of environmental and genetic factors. It is impossible to determine the exact percentages of each factor in someone’s alcoholism or addiction, but typically both are present. It has been proven that people with a history of alcoholism in their families are more likely to be affected themselves, but this is not always the case. There are many psychosocial and environmental factors that can contribute to a person developing alcoholism as well – such as trauma, anxiety, depression, family problems and other mental health issues like bipolar disorder. The way alcohol is used in the home, and in the homes of close friends and family, can also affect the way a person develops the disease of alcoholism.

The characteristics of an alcoholic can generally be applied to addiction to any mind-altering substance and even addictive behaviors. When an alcoholic quits drinking and has no coping mechanisms or tools to fill that void, the tendencies can be switched to another medium – such as gambling, sex or extreme codependency. In order to avoid this, it is important to get treatment for the alcohol or drug dependency that also teaches new life skills and helps the addict or alcoholic develop new behaviors.

Addiction is a life-long and progressive disease. This means it can only get worse if the person does not stop using or drinking – an alcoholic will always hope to be able control and enjoy their drinking, but it will inevitably prove to be impossible. To achieve this goal, a person may quit periodically, but every time they go back to active addiction things will get worse. They will continue to lose important people and jobs in their lives, their health, and still many cannot stop without professional intervention.

For these reasons, it is imperative for the addicted person or their family members to find them help. An addict or alcoholic can very rarely quit drinking and using for any extended period of time on his or her own. The ideal treatment plan begins with a 30 or 90-day inpatient rehabilitation center. At this residential treatment center, the addict or alcoholic will be able to embark on their life-changing recovery process while being ensconced in a safe, comfortable and supportive environment. This type of facility typically includes a medical detoxification center in a comfortable but hospital-type setting for the detox process, which can be dangerous or deadly done alone. Lifetime Recovery is dedicated to finding the best possible treatment center for an individual nationwide. Let us guide you through every step of this life-saving process.