If you’ve grown up with a friend or family member who dealt with substance abuse, you may have wondered why they acted out of character, got angry so easily, or went through great lengths to ensure they had their “fix” at the end of the night. It can seem illogical to those who don’t struggle with this – popular comments are, “Why don’t they just quit?” or “Why do they choose to lose all their money/family/etc. to alcohol/drugs?” Science has shown that addiction is a disease that develops after a person has engaged in substance abuse for a length of time. The following describes common thought processes of many with alcoholism:
- “Alcohol helps me relieve stress – it’s the only thing I can depend on to do this.”
- “My problems aren’t caused by my drinking; my drinking is caused by bad luck, a bad environment, and bad people around me.”
- “I’m drinking because I’m not boring and want to be fun.”
- “If I give up alcohol, I’m not going to enjoy life anymore.”
- “People are really exaggerating the damages of substance use.”
These are just a few of the justifications that those with an addiction think to themselves. The American Psychological Association notes that these thoughts occur because cognition is central to substance abuse; research has shown that prolonged substance abuse alters cognitive abilities such as decision making, inhibition, planning, and memory. How does this play out in the body?
When a person consumes drugs, the brain’s dopamine system is greatly impacted; this is the area that is responsible for producing feelings of happiness and pleasure. Excessive amounts of dopamine may be produced, and after prolonged use of a substance, the brain will actively “seek” and “want” this surge of dopamine to feel “happy” or “relaxed” again. Some research suggests that individuals who are more susceptible to addiction are at higher risk, as those who are less sensitive may be able to test substances for a short period of time without risk of addiction.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimated in 2013 that 24.6 million people aged 12 and older had used an illicit drug in the past month, and this number has likely increased, considering the opioid epidemic. If you are struggling with addiction, seek help immediately. There are many people who want to help you recover.
Simple Recovery is a world-renowned, California state-licensed substance abuse recovery treatment center. If you’re battling with substance abuse, call us today at 888-743-0490 for a consultation.