Addiction is a complex disease of the brain that can be caused by a variety of factors. It develops when the need to take a substance or engage in an activity hijacks parts of the brain responsible for rewarding behavior and providing benefits to the body. Substance-related disorders also affect the area of the brain responsible for emotions and decision-making. Physical addiction occurs when repeated use of a drug alters the way the brain experiences pleasure.
This is due to changes in certain nerve cells (neurons) in the brain, which use chemicals called neurotransmitters to communicate. These changes may remain long after an individual stops using the substance, and can lead to serious physical and psychological problems, as well as interpersonal issues such as with family and friends or at work. Alcohol and drug use is one of the leading causes of preventable diseases and premature death across the country. The amount of time before an addiction develops will vary depending on the situation; however, the complexity of the disease remains similar for anyone showing signs of dependence and addiction.
Addiction experts are beginning to move away from the notion that there are multiple addictions, each linked to a specific substance or activity, and instead suggest that there is an addiction associated with multiple expressions. An object of addiction can be almost anything that is a drug or drug-free activity. For addiction to develop, the drug or activity must change a person's subjective experience in a direction desirable to feel good or feel better. People with substance use and behavioral addictions may be aware of their problem, but they can't stop doing it even if they want to and try.
What's common in all substance and behavioral addictions is their amazing ability to increase levels of dopamine, a chemical substance important in the brain. While many people don't develop chemical dependency or addiction immediately after abusing a drug, constant substance use directly affects the risk of an addiction. If you think you may have an addiction, it's important to talk to your primary care doctor or see a mental health professional such as a doctor who specializes in addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry, or a licensed counselor in alcohol and drugs.""