Addiction: Types and Treatments

What is Addiction? (By guest contributor, Bethany Hatton (bethany@preventaddiction.info)

Addiction is a medical condition in which a person compulsively uses a substance or engages in a behavior despite the detrimental consequences of said behavior. In most cases, the behavior or substance activates brain pathways of reward and reinforcement that release the neurotransmitter dopamine. The brain’s dopamine levels control our motivation to proactively perform actions that we have to do for survival such as eating and procreating. In short, regular dopamine bursts condition us to do the things we need to do. When a person engages in an addictive behavior that releases dopamine, the body learns that it needs that behavior in order to survive.

There are various things a person to which a person can become addicted.

●      Substances such as alcohol, inhalants, opioids, cocaine, nicotine, etc.

●      Medications prescribed by a doctor such as stimulants used to treat ADHD and benzodiazepines to treat anxiety or sleep disorders.

●      Daily activities such as video games, work, or exercise.

●      Behaviors and habits such as sex, watching pornography, gambling, shopping, using the Internet and even getting tattoos.

●      Disordered eating including anorexia, bulimia nervosa and binging.

Patterns of Addictive Behavior

Noticing addictive behavior isn’t always easy. Addicts have a tendency to hide their behaviors as a means of self-preservation. However, neurologists and psychologist have identified several key behavioral patterns often associated with addiction.

●      The addict will feel compelled to revert to addictive behavior whenever an environmental signals opportunities for consumption. For instance, stress may make an alcoholic crave a drink; feeling lonely may trigger a pornography addict to turn on the computer; being around the smell of cigarettes may make a smoker light up.

●      The addict continues their behavior despite the fact that they no longer derive pleasure from it.

●      The addict expresses a desire to quit, but can never follow through. They knowingly act against their prior determination to abstain.

●      In their attempts to quit one addictive behavior, the addict substitutes one compulsive problem for another.

●      Individuals with deficits in emotion-regulation skills engage in addictive behaviors in an attempt to manage negative or distressing affective states.

●      Some people are genetically vulnerable to high levels of impulsivity and addictive behaviors.

Addiction Treatment

As a medical disease, addiction needs professional treatment in order to facilitate recovery. In order to recover, the addict must want to continue their life free from their destructive behavior problems and commit to breaking their habits. Without personal accountability, they easily fall back into their addictions and continue putting their livelihoods, health and relationships at risk.

Inpatient addiction rehab centers, (like Desert Solace) are residential programs for those suffering from addiction. Clients stay at a facility for the duration of their treatment and receive round-the-clock medical treatment, therapy, counseling, and medication as needed. These programs teach addicts about lifestyle changes and habits that support sober living such as community support, family counseling and healthy habits including meditation and exercise for stress and mood management.

There are various types of inpatient treatment programs. Twelve-step programs are common; they are adopted from the group Alcoholics Anonymous, which first used the method. These programs require participants to seek healing through surrender to a higher power. Most religious-affiliated treatment centers use practices similar to the 12-Steps, but they are specific to the participant’s established faith.

Holistic treatment programs treat the whole person physically, mentally, and spiritually without imposing traditional doctrines and parameters. These programs additionally seek to achieve wellness through natural or homeopathic means, but they can also be used in conjunction with western medicine as a way to supplement recovery efforts.

Addiction is a medical disease that can ruin a person’s life. It’s not always substance abuse-- people can become addicted to their behaviors and daily activities, as well. Treating addiction involves a lot of work. Do your research on the best addiction recovery options for your loved one to improve chances of rehabilitation.