What is addiction?
Research has definitely shown that an addiction disorder is a brain disease. It is a dysregulation of the meso-limbic dopamine system. An addicted person does not produce enough dopamine in their brain. This deficiency in dopamine causes anxiety, depression, irritability and anger. Alcohol, drugs and some behaviors (like gambling, gaming, pornography or even eating disorders) create excessive amounts of dopamine in the brain. So when a person experiences these undesirable emotions they use drugs, alcohol and other behaviors to replenish the dopamine deficiency in the brain.
The brain becomes accustomed to the dysregulation caused by the addictive use of alcohol, drugs or other dysregulating behaviours and further reduces its production of dopamine, thus causing increased anxiety, which forces the person to use more alcohol and drugs. This vicious cycle continues on and on until the individuals brain becomes "hard wired" to the use of alcohol and drugs and they have no other choice but to use addictively.
There is no single theory as to why addiction happens. Psychiatrists would suggest pharmacological problems and ego malfunctions. Psychologists would say it is due to emotional and/or co-dependency quandaries. Social workers look at addiction as environmental and dysfunctional family issues. Medical doctors believe it is related to withdrawal, metabolism and genetics. Politicians perceive addiction as legal regulation, social problems and criminal activity. Society understands addiction as peer pressure and lack of willpower. Family systems therapists describe addiction as a loss of relationship to self and loss of relationship to others. Clergy identify addiction as sin or idolatry. Finally, pastoral counsellors view addiction as a spiritual malaise or a relational detachment from God.
Regardless of how it happens, it happens. But there is hope. Although, addiction is a progressive chronic disease, it does not have to end up with someone hitting a disastrous bottom before getting help.
Building on the strengths and resilience of individuals, families and communities who are taking responsibility for sustained recovery from alcohol and drug addiction.