What Is Addiction?
Addiction is more than just a pattern of behavior - it involves physical changes in the brain that produce urges to take a substance or engage in an activity. These urges can be extremely difficult to resist and may cause you to engage in the activity even when you know there are harmful consequences.
Recovery from addiction often involves treatment that partly reverses these changes or teaches you healthy ways to cope with urges.
But why do these changes occur? When you repeatedly engage in a pleasurable activity, it affects the reward pathway of your brain. Your brain produces chemicals like dopamine that make you feel good and connect the activity with these feelings of pleasure, making you want to repeat the activity. This is a normal part of how the brain works.
When you become addicted to a substance or activity, your brain forms very strong connections that create urges that are much more powerful than usual. Drugs flood your brain with unnaturally high levels of chemicals, producing overwhelming sensations of pleasure that hijack the reward system. Behaviors like gambling cause strong connections through repetition and susceptibility to addiction. Certain factors make you more at risk of developing an addiction than other people. These factors include:
- Genetics and family history of addiction
- Early childhood adversity
- Friends and peers struggling with addiction
- Parents using substances at home
- Living with a mental health condition
What Are the Different Kinds of Addiction?
When we think of addiction, our minds normally jump to drugs or alcohol. However, behavioral addictions, such as gambling or sex addictions, are receiving increasing recognition from the scientific community as a class of mental disorders. In 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) formally recognised gambling addiction as a form of behavioral addiction.
At Empowered Recovery, we offer treatment for drug, alcohol, and behavioral addictions.
Substance use disorders, including addiction, affect over 20 million people in the United States every year. Drug abuse also has a huge economic cost, costing the nation over $600 billion each year in health care, criminal justice, theft, and drug-related crime. Addiction treatment, however, can reduce drug use and its associated health and social costs: for every one dollar invested in treatment, as much as twelve dollars can be saved.
There are four main kinds of drugs, classified by their major effects. These are:
Stimulants like cocaine or amphetamine speed up the brain. They may make you feel energetic, active, and excited. Sometimes, they can lead to paranoia and psychosis. Stimulants can be very dangerous and cause death at high doses.
Depressants (sedatives) like alcohol slow down the central nervous system. They may make you feel relaxed and calm, producing paradoxical effects like anxiety and paranoia.
Overdosing on sedatives can slow down the respiratory system, leading to seizures and even death.
Opiate related-painkillers act on our natural opioid system to reduce pain. They can cause feelings of pleasure, euphoria, and drowsiness. Opioid overdose is extremely dangerous - in 2017, 47,000 people in the United States died as a result.
Hallucinogens like psilocybin can cause hallucinations, illusions, and distortions of reality. They often have unpredictable effects, sometimes causing positive experiences and sometimes scary ones.
Every drug works differently, and everyone reacts to drugs differently. Remember that many people will experience effects other than those listed above and that people may display these symptoms when they are not using drugs.
Addiction doesn’t always involve addictive substances. It’s also possible to become addicted to behaviors like gambling, shopping, and sex. These behaviors produce a short-term reward that can lead you to repeat the behavior despite the knowledge of adverse consequences.
Behavioral addictions share many similarities with drug and alcohol addictions. Both tend to develop during adolescence and young adulthood, and rates decrease with age. Both can become chronic illnesses, with patterns of relapse and recovery.
Addiction specialists can treat behavioral addictions in a similar way to substance addictions, with talking therapies, support groups, and complementary therapies leading to meaningful changes and long-term recovery.
Here are some signs and symptoms to look out for in yourself or a loved one.
- Secretiveness, stealing, and lying
- Unexplained financial problems
- Changes to friend groups
- Sudden going out without offering an explanation
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the person stops taking the substance or engaging in the behavior
- Social activities become more focused on the addictive activity
- Becoming preoccupied with the addictive behavior and spending a lot of time thinking about, engaging in, or recovering from it
- Extreme mood changes
- Changes in energy
- Sleeping difficulties
Treatment for Addiction at Empowered Recovery
If you are struggling with addiction, it can feel like there is no way out. However, addiction is treatable, and no matter how severe the problem is, most people benefit from some kind of treatment.
At Empowered Recovery, we’re here to support you on your recovery journey. We help you develop the skills you need to reclaim your life and maintain long-term recovery. We stay by your side as you grasp the power within you to defeat addiction and build the future you deserve.
In recent decades, extensive scientific research has uncovered a range of effective treatment methods to support addiction recovery. Our top-tier team of medical and clinical professionals uses this knowledge to deliver a world-class treatment program, tailored to your unique needs. Our program includes:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavioral therapy
- Aversion therapy
- Trauma-focused therapy
- Experiential therapy
- Complementary therapy
- Family therapy
- Dual diagnosis
Throughout your treatment experience, we design your recovery plan around you. Our admissions process includes an in-depth assessment with professional diagnostic technologies so we can gain a deep insight into your condition. According to your circumstances and needs, we offer three different levels of care - partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and outpatient programming.
Our support doesn’t end when you leave the center. We understand that recovery is a life-long process and offer a year of free coaching at no extra cost. We are here to support you as you continue to grow as a person and build a fulfilling sober life.
If you are struggling with addiction, there is a way out. Call us today to begin your life-changing journey to sobriety.