If you are struggling with addiction, you may be wondering how this happened to you. After all, you were not always an alcoholic or drug addict. It is important to remember that addiction is a progressive illness. It is not something that a person just wakes up with one morning. The reality is that this illness will be getting steadily worse, often without the affected individual even realising. Many people do not appreciate the seriousness of their problem until it is too late.
While you were certainly not born with addiction, you may have a number of factors that made you more likely to develop it. Some people can drink alcohol in moderation or take certain drugs recreationally without ever developing a problem. Unfortunately, some people will be overcome by addiction, and it can completely destroy their lives.
Making the Choice
There is no denying that drinking alcohol or taking drugs is a choice â€“ at least initially. However, when a person becomes dependent on a particular substance, he or she loses their ability to choose. The individual will find it impossible to control their urge to drink or take drugs even if he or she does not want to. Their body begins to expect the substance to which it has become accustomed, and if that substance does not arrive, it will react, causing the individual to experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
There are a number of reasons people drink alcohol or take drugs. Those who can do so recreationally or socially may find that they enjoy a drink or two. They may like the taste, but they will rarely drink enough to get drunk. Those who take party drugs may find that they enjoy the feeling they get but do not feel the need to take more once the effects wear off.
Nevertheless, some individuals turn to alcohol or drugs for a different reason; they may be trying to numb the pain of a particularly unpleasant memory. It could be the loss of a loved one or a traumatic experience that they are looking to block out.
Others are dealing with stressful home or work lives and find that alcohol or drugs provide temporary relief. Nonetheless, those who continue to abuse these substances are putting themselves at risk of addiction and making their situation even worse.
How Addiction Affects the Brain
Repeated use of substances such as alcohol and drugs can actually change the way the brain works. The more a person abuses these substances, the more the brain will adapt; this process is called neuroplasticity. The result of this is that the individualâ€™s ability to make sound judgements and decisions is affected. Self-control is weakened and quitting becomes almost impossible.
Those with no experience or understanding of addiction are often of the belief that it affects those who have no willpower. They believe that only morally weak people are affected, but this is far from the truth. Addiction is an illness of the brain and those affected are often unable to stop, no matter how much they want to.
Help for Addiction
The good news is that addiction is treatable. The process within the brain that occurs when a person becomes addicted to a particular substance is one that scientists believe can be replicated in recovery. In the same way that the brain learns to adapt to the use of drugs or alcohol, it can learn to adapt to abstinence.
Detox and therapy are effective treatments for those who are suffering from addiction. With the right help and support, it is possible for even those with the most severe illnesses to get better. All that is required is commitment and a desire to change.