What Is Addiction? (part 2)
I would like to shift the attention for the last couple of blogs towards solutions of the addiction problem. I realize that this is repetitive, but it is extremely important to finding the ultimate solution.
What is addiction? Addiction is a brain disease, plain and simple. The vast majority of addicts and those in recovery have underlying chemical imbalances in the nervous system with resultant mood disorders that are not properly diagnosed and treated. Self-medication is often unrecognized and can be stopped by proper preventative non-addictive medications.
People get high to alter how they are feeling because they don’t like how they are presently feeling. Some get high to improve mood and so they don’t feel depression, to improve energy and focus and to enhance their creativity. Some self-medicate to calm their anxieties and fears, to stop panic attacks, improve their confidence, and to be able to relax. These results though are only temporary, resulting in the need to get back to that altered state once they experience the “come down” to a sober state. Addicts get bored and restless in that state though and seek the excitement of getting high again. A problem is that altered state becomes their baseline and they then become more depressed and anxious than before, thus fueling the need to become altered again. This creates the vicious cycle of being trapped in a sticky web that they have difficulty getting out of.
Cross-addiction for those who are “sober”, such as those without drug and alcohol addictions, works in the same way. The high of excessive caffeine, tobacco, the high of winning while gambling, the sexual high, the high of cutting, tattooing or piercing, the high of shopping and spending money, the high of purging after binging, the high after exercising obsessively, the high after hours of playing video games etc. all work in the same way. These are followed by the “come down” afterwards, which creates the vicious cycle of addiction. If you notice, most people at AA meetings smoke and drink excessive amounts of caffeine, thought this is justified since they have beaten the alcohol or other drugs. Smoking in particular is as bad or worse for the person than the alcohol habit, though they don’t like to talk about this.
Treating the underlying disorders that lead to drug and non-drug addictions is highly successful for all types of addictions by getting to the core problem. The common misconception is that antidepressants and mood stabilizers are addictive, though this is completely untrue. They actually help to heal a broken system, by remodeling and retraining the nerve cells. It can be argued that ADD medications and minor tranquilizers are addictive, and they can be for some. However, the reality is that if the anxiety and ADD are properly treated that medications at controlled levels can prevent them from using illicit and more dangerous substances. Appropriate use of controlled substances is warranted in patients who are reliable and committed to sobriety. I will finish this topic in the next couple of weeks. Bye for now.