What is Addiction?

Addiction is a disease of the brain which can cause long term mental and physical health problems. The effect that drugs and alcohol have on brain chemistry produce the addictive effect. Drugs stimulate the dopamine system in the brain which creates rewarding sensations.

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During addiction, the person begins to compulsively seek stimulation of the reward system. After this point, changes to the neurochemical structure promote further addictive behaviour. These changes include the loss of self control, and damage to decision making abilities, making it increasingly hard for the individual to fight their addictive tendencies.

In addition to drug and alcohol addiction, it is possible to form behavioral addictions to activities such as sex and gambling. This is because these behaviours stimulate the reward system in the brain in the same way as drugs and alcohol.

Because of the chemical changes in the brain, the addicted person finds it increasingly difficult to stop their behaviour, even when it causes considerable damage to their health and well-being.

Generally, the addicted person will exhibit denial as a way of coping with their behaviour and may take a long time before acknowledging their addiction and reaching a place where they wish to seek help. This means that their addiction may have begun to have a serious impact on their life before they accept the need for change.

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