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Introduction To Addictive Disorders
In this guide, the Addictive Disorders discussed refer to health matters dealing with both physical and
psychological intense desires or cravings for substances or behaviors that grow into dependency. For example,
not only will alcohol and drug dependency be addressed, but addictions dealing with issues like emotional,
“things” or “people” attachments. The general concept is that these cravings or yearnings are ongoing in
spite of the fact that they cause the addicted person, and at times others, harm at various levels; social,
psychological and physical. And on the whole, the addictive disorders that are discussed are considered
progressive or advancing in nature, and chronic or lasting for a long period of time, with distinct periods
High costs to society
There are some alarming facts to consider regarding addictive disorders. For instance, a recent report in
the National Drug Addiction Recovery Month Kit showed the cost of alcohol and illicit drug use in the
workplace, including lost productivity, accidents and medical claims to be an estimated $140 billion per year.
Another fact: every eight seconds, a person dies due to a tobacco-related illness, according to the World
An estimated 28 percent to 30 percent of people in the U.S.A. alone have an addictive substance abuse
disorder, a mental health disorder or both, according to a 2002 report by the National Mental Health Association.
Alcohol abuse and dependence occurs four times as much among men over the age of 65 than women in the
same age group, according to the Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health, 1999.
We will attempt to clear up myths from facts and present an overview of the issues surrounding the disorders,
along with a variety of solutions available to help with
treatment and coping, plus products and services available, so that you can learn more about Overcoming Addictions.
Myth or truth? Addicts cannot be medically treated
This is a myth. Some substance addicts can be medically treated via a detoxifying program, followed up by
treatment with new medicines like Bupropion (Zyban) and Naltrexone (ReVia). These medicines help people who
are refraining from addictive substances to keep their desires for them in check.
Note that the contents here are not presented from a medical practitioner, and that any and all health care
planning should be made under the guidance of your own medical and health practitioners. The content within
only presents an overview of Overcoming Addictions research for educational purposes and does not replace
medical advice from a professional physician.
Addiction in Laymen’s Terms
Many researchers believe that addiction is a behavior that can be controlled to some extent and also a brain
disease. And since some testing with functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) found that all addictions
tend to cause nearly the same reactions inside the brain, there could be one type of control model for
addiction health-related issues. In other words, just as there is one disorder or disease labeled asthma,
there would be one for addiction, covering all addictions; gambling, smoking, overeating, drugs, etc. Then
one main treatment strategy or plan could be used to treat all addictions.
Reactions within the body
The brain, the center of the body’s nervous system, handles
addiction by increasing dopamine levels in response to increased reactions from behaviors, also referred to
as compulsions, like gambling or over eating, and / or in response to increased repeated substance abuse,
like from cocaine or alcohol. And this addiction affects the three functioning processes of the nervous
system; sensing, perceiving and reacting. How? Let’s take a quick peak…
Dopamine, the chemical transmitter to the “pleasure center,” the place where survival instincts like eating
and reproduction focus in the brain, activates cells individually or energizes them. Each energized cell in
turn energizes another cell, and so on down the line, resulting in a spontaneous or systematic process of
ecstasy or elation.
The problem is the brain doesn’t realize what it is that is causing the ecstasy reaction. So when this flutter
of activity increases the creation of dopamine for the negative behaviors and substances like drugs, alcohol,
gambling, etc., it neglects the natural survival instinct reaction mechanisms, replacing them with the ecstasy
Note that also, depending upon the addiction, nervous system functions are altered. So sensing, perceiving and
reacting functions of individuals are impeded. For example, alcohol is a depressant and slows down all of
these functions. So a drunk driver facing an immediate collision will in all likelihood react slower than a
healthy, alert driver. And whether or not the addictive substances are inhaled, going into the lung system;
or injected, traveling via the blood system; or swallowed, entering the digestive system, also affects
different bodily reactions, responses and overall health.
Long term negative effects
One long-term effect is an increased tolerance level with dopamine reaching out into other brain areas that
cloud judgment and behavioral considerations and choices. And ultimately depression results, even amidst
opposing or negative stimuli, like the negative effects of narcotics on behaviors and on the body / mind and
like trying to withdrawal or discontinue use.
Note: other long-term effects can include changing of the brain’s shape and possible permanent brain damage,
depending upon the addiction and length of compulsive activity. And other health problems like cancer from
cigarette smoking can result.
Addiction summed up is: compulsive behavior despite negative consequences.
Other Factors in Addiction
Since internal genetic and external environmental and
behavioral factors and influences vary, so can addiction issues with each person. In other words, a child
born of an alcoholic parent may have an altered or different brain chemistry or make up than a child not
born of an alcoholic.
However, other factors need to be taken into account with regards to whether or not
and to what extent the child is susceptible to addictive behaviors or substances. For instance, genetics,
mental state and the environmental setting of the child, especially during early developmental years could
all play key roles as to how the child or growing adult will react when confronted with certain behaviors
Example of addiction and possible outcome
So take for example a soldier. Surviving temporarily on the only remedy available in hostile territory, he
becomes addicted to morphine while outside his element or home environment. Later he returns to his home
environment. Will he stay addicted to the morphine? Will it be difficult to stop using it?
The answers vary, depending upon the soldier’s predisposition or susceptibility to addiction; his home
environment, his mental state, his genetics with family history, and other factors. In other words, if he
came from a background of living long-term with a family of addicts, socialized with addicts in his neighborhood
and school environments, and already battled with smoking cigarettes, marijuana and other substances routinely,
this soldier may have a difficult time withdrawing from morphine. Whereas, a soldier who had never seen
addiction up close before, either in his family, neighbors, school friends, etc., and who otherwise came
back with a fairly healthy mental state, may be able to stop using morphine with little or no problems
and get back to his “normal” routine.
Which leads to, “How can you tell if someone is addicted or not?
NEXT: Addictions: Symptoms, Traits, Relationship Addiction
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