What is Addiction? Talk To Us

What is Addiction?

General Information

Addiction is a chronic disease. It cannot be cured, but it can be treated with medication, counseling and support from family and friends. Addiction is not a sign of weakness. It is not true that all you need to kick addiction is a “strong mind” or to “be strong.” Repeated drug use can lead to changes in the brain that challenge a person’s self-control and impacts the ability to resist urges to use substances. The changes in the brain can be persistent, which is why drug addiction is considered a relapsing disease. It is common for a person to relapse. Relapse does not mean the treatment doesn’t work. Just like other chronic health conditions, treatment is ongoing and should be reevaluated with time.

Most drugs affect dopamine levels by flooding the pleasure center of the brain. This area of the brain controls the body’s ability to feel pleasure and motivates repeated behaviors to thrive: eating, spending time with loved ones and other enjoyable activities. This overstimulation of the pleasure center of the brain initiates the “high” that can lead people to continue to use the drug. As drug use continues the brain adjusts to the extra dopamine and stops making as much. This reduces the high that the person feels when compared to the initial high. This is referred to as tolerance. Long term use of drugs may also impact learning, judgment, stress, memory and decision-making. 

There is not one single factor that can predict if someone will become addicted to drugs. A combination of factors influence the risk for addiction: biology, environment and development. Just like other chronic diseases, there is not a cure for addiction. Recovery from addiction is a life long journey. Recovery takes commitment every single day through treatment and aftercare. The following are explanations of several substance use disorders.   

More information below about Alcohol Use Disorder and Opioid Use Disorder.