Addiction develops when the need to take a substance hijacks parts of the brain that reward behavior and provide benefits to the body. Substance-related disorders also affect the area of the brain responsible for emotions and decision-making. Physical addiction seems to occur when repeated use of a drug changes the way the brain feels pleasure. The addictive drug causes physical changes in some nerve cells (neurons) in the brain.
Neurons use chemicals called neurotransmitters to communicate. These changes may persist long after you stop using the medication. It may seem strange to group gambling problems into the same category as a drug or alcohol problem. But addiction experts are starting to move away from the notion that there are multiple addictions, each linked to a specific substance or activity.
Rather, the addiction syndrome model suggests that there is an addiction that is 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.
Addiction can cause physical and psychological problems, as well as interpersonal problems, 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. Depending on the situation, the amount of time before an addiction develops will vary; however, the complexity of the disease remains similar for anyone showing signs of dependence and addiction. Although everyone's path to addiction is different, whether they try a drug or behavior, because that's what that person's parents or peers do, or just out of curiosity, what's common in all substance and behavioral addictions is their amazing ability to increase levels of a chemical substance important in the brain.
called dopamine, Boyle told Live Science. 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. The National Institute on Drug Abuse () explains that addiction is a complex disease of the brain and that no single factor causes addiction in any individual. 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.