Why Do We Get Addicted?

Addictions have been known to ruin people’s lives, so why do we get addicted?

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Whether you’re addicted to smoking, eating, or gambling, you’re probably addicted to something on some scale. But what hooks us and feeds these addictions? Why do we get addicted? To start off, there are two main types of addictions, substance addictions and behavioral addictions. A substance addiction is an addiction to a drug like caffeine, nicotine, or cocaine, and a behavioral addiction is an addiction to a certain activity, such as gambling, eating, or sexual reproduction. But what makes us use or take part in these things? Addictions are still being explored today, and it’s important to note that we aren’t 100% sure why we get addicted, but the most widely accepted theory today is that addiction is sort of like a brain disease, and here’s how it goes. Humans learn to survive based on a reward styled system, and when we doing something that aids in our survival, like eating, our limbic system releases dopamine, a chemical that makes us feel good. Because we want to experience the feel good feeling again, we repeat the action, and this is how the body learns. This is why some people can get addicted to behavioral addictions like exercising. When you exercise, you are aiding in your survival, and in return dopamine is released. The body likes this sensation, and you may exercise more or become addicted to exercise because you like the feeling that dopamine gives you. But let’s face it. Doing drugs like cocaine and tobacco aren’t necessary in our survival, so why do we get addicted to drugs? Drugs target our limbic system, and doing drugs releases up to 10 times the normal amount of dopamine. This makes the body feel extremely good, and it experiences what is known as a dopamine high, rush, or overdose. This abnormal amount of dopamine impacts the brain largely, and in turn the body quickly learns to use it again and again. But such high levels of dopamine have a consequence. After the dopamine wears off, the body is left in a hangover, or recovery, state. The brain struggles to return to its normal self and in return can cause dangerous behavior, depression, and even pain. But that’s not the worst part. Being exposed to high levels of dopamine for long periods of time can lower the natural amount of dopamine released. This means that eating and other actions our body needs to survive will no longer make you feel as good, and in return make your connection to the drug more reliant. Since you can’t get as much natural and healthy dopamine, you resort to doing even more drugs to make your body feel good. But just because you go to the store to buy one bottle of beer doesn’t mean that you are necessarily an alcoholic, so what makes you an addict? Signs of a substance addiction are altered tolerance levels, meaning that you either need less or more of the substance to get your dopamine high. Other symptoms occur after your high, such as sweating, hand tremors, anxiety, trouble sleeping, nausea, and even using more of the substance to get rid of the symptoms. But seeing as all addictions aren’t substance addictions, what are the symptoms of a behavioral addiction? If you are suffering from a behavioral addiction, you are likely to have a history of attempting to stop with no luck, discontinuing other activities to make time for your addiction, and even continuing the addiction even after knowing it isn’t good. But don’t you fear. Although addictions are bad, there are ways to treat addictions. The most common way is take medicines designed to stop the addiction, but in extreme cases you may need rehabilitation. And of course there’s the difficult one-just stopping. But if waking up one day and deciding to stop isn’t your cup of tea, there is always the option of slowly easing your way out of the addiction. For example, if your addiction is smoking, allow yourself to smoke 9 times one week, 8 times the next, 7 times after that week, and so forth. This way you are still giving yourself dopamine, but just progressively less until you don’t need it anymore. So there’s addictions in a nutshell. Addictions and good sensations are ultimately here to aid in our survival, but too much of something can be harmful in the long run.

Source: Why Do We Get Addicted?

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