Addiction

Addiction is defined as the habitual compulsion to engage in a certain activity or utilize a substance, despite the potentially devastating consequences on the individual's physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and financial well-being. Instead of addressing life's obstacles, tackling daily stress and/or confronting past or present trauma, the addict responds to pain by resorting to a pseudo-coping mechanism. Addiction offers an illusory refuge and leads people down a self-destructive path that takes a heavy toll on both themselves and those around them. Addiction alters the emotions of the addict, who turns to the substance in search of a psychological high or a fast chemical fix. The addict uses the substance or engages in the activity to achieve stress relief, attain a sense of control, change his or her mood, and/or banish real-life issues.

Typically, addiction manifests both psychological and physical characteristics. Physical dependence occurs when an individual's body develops a dependence on a certain substance and experiences withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuing the consumption. Abuse of caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, barbiturates, marijuana, opiates, amphetamines, cocaine, and/or benzodiazepines trigger physical dependence. While initially an addictive substance induces pleasure to the user, his or her continued consumption is driven more by a need to eliminate the anxiety brought about by its absence, thus leading the individual to compulsive behavior. In addition, the addict's physical dependence on the substance often becomes a determinative factor in his ongoing use of the drug. Psychological dependency becomes evident when the addict experiences withdrawal symptoms such as depression, cravings, insomnia, and irritability. Both behavioral addiction and substance addiction usually give rise to psychological dependence.

The speed with which an addict becomes dependent varies with his or her psychological susceptibility, genetic makeup, social factors, the substance itself, and the degree of euphoria or pleasure, the form of ingestion, and the frequency and volume of consumption. Addiction is a progressive disease, with the user needing a larger quantity of the substance to achieve tolerance, or the dopamine intoxication effect. The addict often progresses to more powerful substances trying to re-experience their initial 'high.' Addiction produces a state of chaos and wreaks havoc on every facet of an individual's life- from family and personal relationships, spiritual existence, and social life, to health, business relationships, and finances. It leads to legal problems, low self-esteem, self-loathing, broken values, and broken promises, difficulties in the workplace, and failed marriages and/or disintegration of close relationships. Substance abuse and behavioral addiction cause an addict's life to become unmanageable and his or her lifestyle to spiral out of control.

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