The Cycle of Addiction

February 3rd, 2014

Addiction is a brain disease that involves: obsessive thinking, compulsive need and craving for alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, food, etc.; loss of control over the use of the object of the addiction; and continued use despite negative consequences. The addicted brain is chemically different and physiologically different from a normal brain.

People in addiction often experience increased emotional pain that may be difficult to alleviate by previously effective coping methods. Addicted individuals may turn to addictive substances or experiences in order to seek relaxation, stimulation, mood regulation, reduced emotional pain or anxiety, and an improved perception of life. By increasing the use of these medications to meet emotional needs, those in addiction may begin to develop tolerance and dependence.

When confronted with an addiction and its negative consequences, the individual often feels intense guilt and shame and these feelings may intensify the individual’s unhealthy attempts to cope. In this way, addiction creates a cycle of ever-increasing addictive behavior resulting in negative emotions, which in turn motivates an increase in dependence on the addiction for comfort.

Shame can be one of greatest impediments to seeking alcohol and addiction treatment. Shame and blame from family and society also contributes to the vicious cycle of addiction. Like any disease, with proper medical intervention and supervision, appropriate aftercare and life-style changes, and sincere support and encouragement, the addicted individual in recovery can live a healthy and productive life.

“Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.”
– American Society of Addiction Medicine

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