How Does Someone End Up Addicted?

How does Someone End Up Addicted

Drug use and addiction may be synonymous, but there are a couple steps between using a drug and getting addicted to it. Even heroin, one of the most addictive drugs in the world, can’t get someone hooked from a single high. The journey to becoming addicted is one determined by a number of different factors, including the addictiveness of the drug, the person’s mental health at the height of their drug use, and many external and internal factors that may drive someone to use drugs more liberally than most.

Drug addiction is quite complicated and has little to do with a person’s moral convictions or strength of character. Largely characterized as a brain disease, addiction’s causes are ultimately neurological in origin. We’re going to go over how a person might get addicted to drugs.

 

It’s in the Family

Addiction does run in the family. Scientists have identified genes (small biological differences) that are specifically related to addiction, and statistics show that if you have a close relative who struggles with addiction, it’s likely that you have a higher risk of developing an addiction to the same drug than others with no family history of addiction. This can often be seen in alcoholism/alcohol use disorder. It’s important to note that a predisposition towards drug abuse does not make an addition a guarantee, it only means that there is a considerable degree of inheritability.

Note that while studies do their best to correct for such issues, it’s important to note that it is very difficult to separate genetic predisposition from the effects of a similar family background, in terms of violence and abuse at home, issues with poverty, ethnic discrimination, and so on.

 

How Drugs Cause Addiction

Drug use itself obviously plays a massive role in the development of addiction. Addictive drugs are addictive for different reasons and have different effects and mechanisms in the brain, but the general gist of addictiveness starts with how certain chemicals make their way into the brain through the bloodstream, and bind with our brain cells, often mimicking normal brain chemicals in size and shape, and thus attaching to our cells’ receptors.

Once integrated with portions of the brain, addictive drugs tend to stimulate the brain into releasing abnormal amounts of dopamine or increase the brain’s sensitivity to dopamine. The effects of such a gross overload of brain chemicals leads to a number of physical and psychological effects.

The first effect is the high. Not all illegal drugs or high-inducing drugs are addictive, as with drugs such as LSD. These drugs are potentially dangerous for different reasons. However, stimulants, depressants, opioids and a slew of synthetic designer drugs all induce a different kind of high, coupled with the manipulated release of dopamine, and an effect on the reward pathways of the brain.

One high isn’t enough to make serious physiological changes, but heavy drug use can change the brain in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, including symptoms of withdrawal after stopping, tolerance issues resulting in the need for stronger doses to remain high, and other adaptations that begin to suggest a physical dependence on the drug. Psychological effects can include anything from heightened anxiety and depressive symptoms to irritability, paranoia, and psychosis.

 

Stress and Drug Use

Stress is indubitably linked to drug use, and drug abuse. One of the reasons people may turn towards drugs to begin with is as a way to cope with pressure, release stress, and seek relief. Traumas, sudden loss, struggles with work or school, as well as long-term ongoing psychological anguish and serious emotional stress can cause addiction as a way to cope with recurring feelings of anger, sadness, and more.

The reason drugs are such an attractive way to deal with stress is because they don’t require confiding in another person about your problems, they don’t require you to confront your issues, and they work very quickly and very effectively – for a very short period of time. Drugs are maladaptive coping mechanisms, meaning they don’t provide a long-term solution to the pain, and often make it worse by enabling denial and lack of treatment or care.

 

Drug Use in Teens

Teens are uniquely positioned to struggle with developing and lasting addiction due to their age. Teens are more prone to developing mood disorders and experiencing feelings of distress and depression, and are prone to the perfect storm of:

  • Heightened sense of curiosity
  • Lack of risk assessment or inhibition
  • Groupthink and peer pressure

Teens are more likely to start using drugs than any other age group and are more likely to develop lifelong addiction the younger they start.

However, the good news is that teens seem less likely to engage in drug use today than in almost any other period of recent history. This generation has fewer drug-related vices than its predecessors. But a significant portion of US teens still struggle with the effects of drug use, either directly or indirectly.

 

Prescription Medication and Addiction

A significant portion of overdose deaths in the past few years have been due to prescription drugs, primarily prescription opioids used to stave off chronic pain and postoperative pain. While inefficient and sometimes even ineffective, today’s healthcare system in America incentivizes the prescription and use of pills over long-term pain management strategies such as physical rehab, professional massages, cryotherapy, heat treatment, and so on.

This was a problem especially in the 90s, when erroneous health guidelines pushed for the prescription of pain medication, especially the drug OxyContin, leading in tens of thousands of overdose deaths, and countless new addicts hooked to opioids first, and heroin after.

Since then, the effects of excessive prescription have been felt in the form of the growing opioid crisis, which continues to claim lives, fueled by a growing heroin market, larger supplies of illegal drugs, and the aftermath of the global recession and its severe and detrimental effects on the economy.

The factors that cause addiction are multifold and exist in many different shapes and forms. Every case is different and requires a different level of care and different forms of treatment.

How Addiction Interferes with Ordinary Everyday Life

Addiction Interferes with Everyday Life

Developing an addiction takes time and does not happen overnight. The brain responds to drugs differently from person to person, and the speed at which people develop a substance dependence varies due to factors such as age, size, gender, genetics, and more. However, despite the many ways in which the body and mind respond to drug use and addiction, one thing remains a constant: addiction always brings a slew of negative effects to the table, many of which consistently interfere with ordinary everyday life, and leave most people struggling to maintain a sense of normalcy.

The earlier an addiction is identified and treated, the better. While life is best lived without access to addictive drugs, the reality is that many Americans were exposed to drugs like nicotine and alcohol at a young age, while many others rely on the therapeutic effectiveness of drugs like opioids and amphetamines to cope with pain and illness. Others struggle mentally and find drugs to be the only effective outlet for their pain. But when a person passes the threshold from casual use to addiction, there’s no effective argument in favor of continued drug use. Here are a few ways in which an addiction can change your life for the worse.

 

Time & Money

An addiction costs a serious amount of money. One of the lifestyle consequences of addiction are financial ruin, due to the sheer cost of drugs, recovery, and potential legal costs. Aside from being financially-draining, addiction is time-draining. Many addicts lose track of time due to their mental state, struggling with memory problems, bouts of insomnia, inconsistent sleeping schedules, and entire days lost on drug use.

One of the characteristics of an addiction is the obsession with substance abuse, and the total dependence on it. A person can’t seem to function without their fix, and they can’t function while high. While an addiction doesn’t start on that extreme level, it unfortunately often develops in that direction. The costs of an addiction are not always obvious – to many addicts, they find excuses for their behavior or unconsciously seek ways to justify their behavior in the beginning stages of the problem. However, it becomes harder and harder to hide and manage the behavior as time goes on. Often, it’s then when addiction begins to eat into other aspects of life.

 

Eroding Relationships and Trust

Next only to the potential loss of life caused by addiction is the loss of trust and the destruction of many relationships built on years of prior experience. An addiction can cause a person to completely lose the trust of those they love, beginning with the inner conflict between trying to maintain control of one’s life and the irresistible pull of an addiction, and culminating in severed ties and feelings of guilt and shame, leading to an intensifying of addictive habits as a way to cope with the loss of a partner or loved one’s trust.

Because an addiction is often insidious and develops slowly over time, it can become difficult to comprehend and differentiate the addiction from your own thoughts and behaviors – which only makes the pain of disappointing those you love that much more painful, as you feel that you failed not only them, but yourself. This erosion of self-esteem and self-efficacy is often compounded by an intense stigma against addicts and addiction developed by a misunderstanding of addiction and the way it functions as a chronic brain disease. Fixing trust issues after an addiction – and addressing the damage dealt to many relationships – can be one of the harder aspects of addiction recovery.

 

Struggling with Workplace Commitments

As an addiction grows, it becomes more difficult to keep track of responsibilities and priorities. Because one of the characteristics of addiction is the inability to prioritize anything over the addictive behavior itself, many responsibilities and commitments fall to the wayside.

This does not always have to lead to loss of employment. Some employers are willing to support their employees in their recovery, if they are forthcoming about their condition and earnest in their desire to recover. Other employees fear and worry that revealing their addiction will only lose them their job, causing them to try and deny or hide their behavior for as long as possible, avoiding potential treatment for fear of being found out.

 

Failing to Keep Up Appearances

The same issue can heavily affect a person’s social commitments. It becomes harder to commit to meeting up with friends and keeping track of a healthy social life while going off the deep end. Many addicts end up building material friendships with other addicts around them. Others withdraw entirely.

Make no mistake, however, an addiction will heavily affect the way you spend time with people, when you do end up spending time with people. Many people become addicted to a drug due to their friends to begin with, in which case, they often develop a greater commitment to their friends than any other group, either because they feel more accepted, or because they need a reliable source for their fix.

 

Declining Health

Drug use severely affects the human body, beginning with the effects of addiction in the brain and culminating with organ damage over long periods of time, and deaths caused by drug overdose symptoms or the long-term effects of drug use. Stimulants severely affect the heart and brain, for example, increasing the risk of a stroke or heart disease. Depressants can kill a person by causing respiratory arrest and brain death and damage the liver and kidneys. Alcohol contributes to the development of over half a dozen different cancers, and heavy alcohol use diminishes cognitive function, affects memory and decision making, and tears apart the liver.

Many other deleterious effects are a consequence of the high itself, from sexually-transmitted diseases caused by risky sexual encounters fueled by drug use, to automobile accidents and more.

 

Drugs and Mental Health

Drug use is tied to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, not only in the sense that teens and adults with mental health problems are more prone to addiction, but also in the sense that these issues can develop in people as a result of substance abuse and substance dependence. Returning to a normal everyday life after addiction can be extraordinarily difficult due to the way drug use can change a person’s brain over time, requiring a long-term commitment to recovery and mental healthcare as a way to overcome the effects of addiction and enjoy a happier life.

Addiction affects a person’s everyday life in a variety of ways, but that doesn’t mean any given addict is going to experience all of these issues together. Individual factors change how an addiction is likely to affect you. These factors also change the efficacy of different treatments. By examining how an addiction developed and how it affected a person’s life, addiction specialists can determine how best to help you. But the process is a long one, and it can involve trial and error. Support from others is just as important as the treatment itself, whether that support comes from family members, friends, professionals, or all of the above.

Leading A Healthy Sex Life After Sex Addiction

Leading a Healthy Sex Life After Addiction

Addiction in general is a betrayal of trust, but sex addiction can do more damage to a relationships than any addiction to drugs. Discovering that the person you love has been seeking intimacy from complete strangers while jeopardizing your wellbeing through the possibility of STDs can be shattering. In many cases, it can be traumatizing.

Coming back from that is hard for both parties. Revealing a sex addiction – or having it be revealed for you – will completely change your life. Finding out about your partner’s sex addiction may very likely end a relationship built on decades of love and adoration. The very idea of sex afterwards will seem tarnished, and amidst the fury, hurt, and confusion, the thought that things eventually get better seems distant at best.

It is possible to lead a healthy sex life after sex addiction, for both the addict and their partner. What that means, however, depends entirely on the two of you. There is no perfect rulebook for treating a sex addiction and moving past it. You will have to decide on your own terms how the two of you will be moving forward, both with the relationship and your own individual lives. There will be many decisions to make, none of which should be made early on, but only after the dust has settled and the initial rage and chaos has passed on.

 

What Is Sex Addiction?

There are several different names for it, but a sex addiction essentially boils down to a process addiction dependent on sexual gratification. Process addictions are addictions that do not involve an addictive substance, but are rooted in a similar cycle of wanting, seeking, gaining pleasure, feeling guilt, and wanting it all over again.

People seek out sex over gambling, food, or drugs for any number of reasons. Most of the time, it is to use sex as an analgesic. Oftentimes, sex addicts struggle greatly with intimacy and love, and seek the instant gratification of a quick affair with a stranger to get off rather than seeking intimacy with a long-time partner. Sometimes, a pattern emerges within times of great stress where a person seeks sex as a way to relieve pressure and feel good, to the point that the taboo of cheating and sneaking off becomes the only way that person can get off.

Sex addictions are primarily characterized by unstoppable behavior despite clear consequences, as well as recognizing that the behavior is a problem (both to the addict and their partner/s). Sex addiction can also manifest through:

  • Constant and uncontrollable inappropriate behavior at work
  • Constant unwanted advances towards others despite rebuffs
  • Very frequent and disruptive masturbation
  • Daily and hours-long viewing of pornography
  • Inability to stop or slow down sexual cravings despite clear consequences
  • Lying about extramarital activities and engaging in them despite the risk

Sex addiction isn’t defined by the amount or kind of sex someone has. It isn’t identified through sexual preference or inclination. It does not depend on the presence of paraphilia (extreme or unusual sexual desires, including fetishism). First and foremost, sex addiction is the need for sexual gratification at all costs. Clinically, someone with sex addiction isn’t so much addicted to sex as they are in need of something to fill a great void or feed an endless cycle. Sex just happens to be the thing they use, rather than gambling or drugs. This is often coupled with a fear of being open and honest with someone else, fear of being vulnerable in a relationship, and inability to develop an honest and intimate bond with another person past the superficial, or without lies.

This is where the first complications arise on the road to recovery. It isn’t that sex addicts are incapable of telling the truth – rather, a major part of recovery involves reforming and improving the bond of trust that was shattered in the early days of the reveal. The possibilities of a relapse coupled with the innate instinct to seek out sexual gratification as a way to cope with the stress of recovery makes this very difficult for both parties. The addicts worry whether they can maintain their commitment, and self-doubt can potentially eat away at them without proper help. The addict’s partner fears trusting them, because it could lead to even more pain, and self-loathing due to ‘falling for it again’.

The first step to leading a healthy sex life is rebuilding the relationship from the ground up, with rules, boundaries, and consequences, after much time spent in treatment.

 

How Sex Addiction Is Treated

Sex addiction is primarily treated through therapy. Not every sex addiction has a similar root cause, and there are many factors that feed into the origin of a sex addiction, as well as factors that continue to support the addiction in various ways. It takes a professional to accurately diagnose someone with a process addiction and help them determine the best way forward.

Therapy can come in different ways and is usually recommended for both parties. While the addict needs therapy, most partners appreciate help from a therapist as well. The shock of the discovery coupled with the transition through early recovery and the rest of the treatment process can lead to the development of PTSD and other forms of anxiety. Finding out about a partner’s sex addiction can leave a person feeling broken. Therapy can help them put themselves back together.

Couples’ therapy is not a good idea in early recovery, and neither is making any significant decisions about the state of the relationship. It’s important to consider pursuing legal avenues and thinking about divorce, but nothing should be done until the initial shock has worn off, and the reality of the situation is a little easier to swallow and fully comprehend.

Ultimately, sex addicts must confront what they’ve done, come clean to their partners with the full extent of their actions, and seek individual therapy and counseling to understand how to best overcome their weaknesses, address the causes of their behavior, and find out how to be a better human being. Only then can a healthy sex life – and a healthier relationship – eventually develop.

 

It’s Your Path and Your Path Alone

Whether you decide to stay together is up to you two as consenting adults. If you’re a sex addict and have gone your separate ways, and you’re afraid of striking up a commitment with someone new, then don’t. Seek professional help to discuss your fears and apprehensions and find ways to overcome the worry that things will go wrong.

IF you and your partner decided to keep the marriage or relationship alive, then be sure to give things some time before you reincorporate sex. It’s important to establish rules and boundaries that ensure that both parties trust each other before getting intimate again. It may take months or years, but this is something you have to work at.

There is no right way to lead a healthy sex life after sex addiction. Not having sex isn’t the answer for most people – but reverting to your old ways isn’t it, either. Discover what behavior you and your partner can agree on as normal and acceptable, and what behavior borders on old habits and feelings of betrayal. Then stick to those rules.

 

Can Stopping Cold Turkey Be Dangerous?

Stopping Cold turkey

The allure of stopping cold turkey is simple: you cut it all out and try not to think about it. Shut it all away into a deep dark corner of yourself and try to run from the terrible cravings that come after. Where many consider weaning off drugs as something too challenging to even attempt, going “cold turkey”, or quitting all drug use abruptly, is very much like ripping a Band-Aid off as fast as possible.

There are pros and cons to this approach. The pros are obvious – it’s easier. For the most part, at least. Going cold turkey, especially when paired with the right environment, is the fastest way to overcome the short-term effects of drug addiction. That doesn’t mean you’re ‘cured’ afterwards, but you do get to a level of complete and lasting sobriety much sooner than if you decided to take things slow and reduce your drug intake over time.

The cons, however, can be significant – depending on your addiction. The two things to worry about when going cold turkey are 1.) stronger withdrawal symptoms, and 2.) a drastically and immediately-reduced tolerance to your drug of choice, making a relapse not only incredibly potent and alluring, but potentially deadly.

Some drugs need to be quit cold turkey, like cigarettes. While uncomfortable, cigarette smoking kills more Americans than anything else on the planet. Cigarettes are still responsible for more deaths than other lifestyle-related heart diseases, drug overdoses, car accidents, and a long list of diseases and illnesses. Cancers, heart problems and respiratory failure induced by long-term cigarette smoking claim the most lives out of any drug and quitting immediately is your best bet to quitting completely.

Other drugs can actually pose a serious threat to your health if you quit suddenly and abruptly. Drugs that primarily slow the body down (alcohol, sedatives, anti-anxiety medication, tranquilizers, depressants, opioids, and glucocorticoids) can lead to very dangerous and even deadly withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol and other depressants like benzos and barbiturates are the most dangerous drugs to go cold turkey on, because the withdrawal symptoms can potentially end your life.

Several factors affect the severity your withdrawal symptoms, including your physical health, your current lifestyle, age, the severity of your drug use, and how long you have been using drugs. It’s impossible to say whether quitting cold turkey would be dangerous or a good idea, but one thing is for certain: it’s best to go cold turkey under medical supervision, regardless of your addiction.

 

Why Withdrawal Symptoms Occur

Withdrawal symptoms seem like one big mistake in nature’s eye, but they’re a side-effect of having drugs slowly but surely leave the system. The severity of an individual’s drug withdrawal symptoms depends not only on the drug of choice, but underlying issues such as masked malnutrition, sleep deprivation, infections, and chronic pain, as well as the method through which the drug was introduced into the system, and more.

When you start taking drugs, the drugs interfere with the brain’s normal means of communication: neurotransmission. Neurotransmitters are chemicals released on a regular basis to help manage every autonomous function in the body, as well as effect mood and behavior. Drug use can also upset the body’s natural homeostasis, or balance. If your neurotransmitters and hormone levels are going haywire, systems that should be functioning regularly are not functioning at all. Meanwhile, over-stimulation due to staying consistently high can at times damage the brain’s ability to send signals from one area to the next, as well as creating a new “normal” only sustainable through consistent and repeated drug use.

This leads to two things: first, tolerance after drug dependence. This is characterized by needing a higher dosage of the usual drug to elicit the same effects, because the body has gotten used to the old drugs. Secondly, withdrawal symptoms. Quitting causes the body to try and quickly revert back to homeostasis as the remaining drugs are metabolized and disposed of. This can lead to physical and emotional shock. Most withdrawal periods last from anywhere between a few hours to a few days, depending on the drug and the severity and nature of the addiction. Some drugs can cause post-acute withdrawal symptoms, wherein withdrawal symptoms resurface after a few days or weeks of sobriety. Most anecdotal accounts of withdrawal draw parallels between withdrawal symptoms and viral attacks such as the flu. While symptoms differ from drug to drug, common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shivering, and extreme emotional shifts.

 

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol is one of a few different drugs that can potentially be fatal, if you decide to go cold turkey. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop drinking – but it is important to know what you might be in for, and if you’re addicted to alcohol, it’s a good idea to consult a medical professional and sign into rehab or a sober living home before you decide to quit. They can provide you with the necessary medical assistance to ensure that you survive the process and receive the medication and proper care necessary to see you safely through to the other side. Some of the symptoms that can occur with severe alcohol use disorder include:

  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting

About 5% of cases of alcohol withdrawal also experience delirium tremens, a separate set of symptoms that start about 2-3 days after quitting. Other symptoms accompanying DT include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High heart rate
  • Fever/high temperature

 

Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Opioid withdrawal symptoms are similar to alcohol or depressant withdrawal symptoms, but not quite as severe. They’re reported to be similar to the flu. Some expected symptoms include:

  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Muscle aching
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Goose bumps
  • Shivers
  • Nausea

 

Stimulant Withdrawal Symptoms

Least severe among major narcotics and illegal drugs, stimulant withdrawal symptoms can still be incredibly uncomfortable. Stimulants are drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamines, and other drugs that induce a “hyperactive” high. Symptoms include:

  • Feelings of severe depression
  • Lethargy
  • Severe emotional downturn
  • Long-lasting symptoms including anhedonia (lack of pleasure), suicidal ideation

Antidepressants may be prescribed during and after an intense stimulant withdrawal period, to prevent lasting depressive effects. They are not always effective, and therapy may be necessary to treat lasting depression as well as continued cravings and addiction.

 

Sedative Withdrawal Symptoms

Despite being less fatal than alcohol on its own, benzodiazepines can induce deadly withdrawal symptoms, alongside other sedatives such as barbiturates. Aside from potential heart failure and seizures, other withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Psychosis
  • Nausea
  • Sensory distortions
  • Heart palpitations
  • Agitation
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Panic

 

Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms

Nicotine is a stimulant, and most commonly consumed through cigarettes. While nicotine gum and nicotine patches have been used for decades as ways for nicotine users to quit without the effects of withdrawal, nicotine’s withdrawal symptoms are not likely to be deadly. However, they will be unpleasant. The most common ones are:

  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Weight gain
  • Insomnia
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Tingling in the extremities
  • Intense cravings

 

Should You Go Cold Turkey?

It depends. Ideally, you should go to a local addiction specialist and request help through addiction treatment, either through a residential treatment center or an outpatient program after going through detox with medical attention.

Going over your addiction history with a doctor can help make the decision to either wean off or cut off. It’s unwise to stick to medical advice taken off the Internet, so be sure to consult a doctor before deciding anything – especially if you plan to go cold turkey at home.

Sex Addiction is Real and It’s Unhealthy

Sex Addiction Unhealthy

Sex correlates with less stress, more happiness, a lower risk of heart disease, a stronger immune system, lower blood sugar, and a good way to generally decrease and lessen pain, including the chronic kind. It even burns calories.

By all accounts, sex is something people are generally excited about – and more accurately, it’s something that excites them. But too much sex is definitely a bad thing, especially when your tendency to seek out physical intimacy is no longer driven by a natural desire, but by an unhealthy compulsion that is beginning to eat away at life as you know it. Sex is good, but sex addiction is not, and sex addiction is a real problem.

 

It’s Not Technically Addiction

Sex addiction is known as such because it draws parallels to drug addiction, wherein a person compulsively craves the high of a certain drug, going to great lengths to get that high, even if the consequences are dire. But the differences between sex addiction and drug addiction begin to reveal themselves after you get past the superficial similarities.

Drug addiction begins in the brain, when a drug enters the bloodstream and makes its way to the brain cells. There, it intercepts the natural neurotransmission on which your brain relies for communication and general functioning. Nearly every process in the body involves regulation through the brain, which relies on these neurotransmitters to do their job. Drugs flood the brain’s receptors with chemicals similar to these neurotransmitters, causing a wide variety of possible effects, the most significant being the high.

But a lot more happens. Alcohol, nicotine, and a wide variety of illegal drugs all affect the brain in ways that aren’t normal, forcing the brain to adapt. In the process of adapting, the brain gets “used to” drug use. Over time, this affects a person’s behavior and thought processes, leads to withdrawal symptoms, and cravings. This is where addiction begins.

Sex addiction involves compulsive sex, but not for the same reasons. It’s not that sex makes some people get high off an orgasm in ways others can’t. Rather, sex addiction or hypersexuality is a sign of severe intimacy and coping issues, and points towards a person who uses sex as a way to cope with stress and needs to regularly express sexual desire as a way to escape meaningful relationships and avoid questions of potential commitment.

 

Sex Itself Isn’t Bad

It’s important to bring awareness to the fact that too much sex can be a hint that something else is wrong in your life – however, it is just as important to distinguish between sex addiction and having an extremely high sex drive.

Wanting to have sex often or engaging in potentially dangerous behavior to get off (such as public intercourse, or simulated violence) is not grounds for a mental disorder. You can have as much sex as you want, so long as it’s all legal. It begins to be a problem when you’re making severe sacrifices and undue compromises to satisfy your sexual urges, including lying to your partner, prioritizing sex over work or other responsibilities, and seeking out sex purely as away to deal with stress. Other forms of sex addiction include relentless sexual thoughts and fantasies, inappropriate behavior towards strangers and coworkers, constant masturbation, and a preoccupation with sex and pornography.

 

Why Compulsive Sex Is Bad

Compulsions are behavior we can’t stop, and must indulge in. Anything compulsive is bad, because it implies that you’ve lost self-control, and that you’re unable to stop yourself even though you know you should. Like anything else, compulsive sex can become dangerous. Excessive sexual intercourse with a large number of partners drastically increases your risk of developing or catching a sexually-transmitted disease. If drugs are part of the picture, then the risk is increased, as drug use inhibits planning and risk-assessment, leading to a greater risk of infection, pregnancy, and unwanted advances.

It’s not just about frequency and multiple partners. Both carry risks that can be mitigated by careful planning – but it’s the compulsion itself that drives people to do things they otherwise wouldn’t, including dangerous things, to get off.

Sex addiction hints at other problems bubbling beneath the surface. There’s a reason people turn to compulsive sex as a coping mechanism, and over time, this maladaptive short-term coping mechanism will give way to an underlying condition that, without treatment, continues to grow, potentially leading to mood disorders like major depression, anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and more.

 

You Have an Intimacy Problem

The root of sex addiction is a problem with interpersonal contact and human relationships. People turn to sex as a way to avoid facing real relationships, usually due to childhood trauma or an association of pain with relationships, due to abusive parents or past experiences. Sex is a great way to relieve stress, but when it becomes your only outlet while being faced with a potential mental disorder left untreated, it can quickly turn into a source of danger.

Solving intimacy issues is done largely through therapy. Because compulsive sex obviously leads to severe setbacks, residential therapy is a good option. Sober living homes give people the opportunity to focus on their treatment without seeking sex or drugs.

Even for couples, separation and isolated therapy is important. Sex addiction usually includes infidelity, putting significant strain on any relationship. Even in a polygamous setting, a sex addict will put their own desires and needs over their relationships with others, leading to strife and further stress. Sex addiction isn’t always about physical intimacy, and may involve overuse of pornography, obsessions with internet porn and porn actors/actresses, excessive purchasing of porn, as well as risky self-indulgences, such as unwarranted sexting, online soliciting, and other similar behavior. Even without the sex, sex addiction will put strain on any serious commitment, and couples counseling is not the right first step.

Treatment works, but it does so over time. Intimacy issues are not resolved overnight, and progress may be frustratingly slow for the partners of patients. But without treatment, sex addiction can lead to a number of other related issues, including drug use, depression, anxiety, and more.

Understanding When to Get Help for Addiction

When to Get Help For Addiction

An estimated 20 million Americans struggle with addiction. Other estimates state that just over half of the adult population of the United States has tried at least one illicit substance in their lifetime, and the overwhelming majority of Americans have tried alcohol, while up to half of the nation is drinking regularly. Substance use is deeply embedded in society and is a fact of life for countless men and women.

Despite that, it remains relatively taboo for many to speak up about their addiction and reveal that they’re having a problem. Others yet don’t even realize that they’re struggling with addiction. Part of the problem lies in the fact that addiction is so poorly understood for many, that it becomes difficult to distinguish between, for example, heavy alcohol use and addiction.

An estimated one in six Americans regularly binge drink once a week, drinking an average of seven drinks worth of alcohol in a single session. However, only a fraction of the people who binge drink are addicted. Understanding what addiction is, can help you figure out when you need help, and why.

 

When Is It Addiction?

There’s a relatively simple distinction that, while easy to describe, is not always so easy to identify. The difference between drug use and addiction is how voluntary one is compared to the other. Both eventually lead to someone getting hurt or ignored, but if a person is in full control over their actions and they realize how their drug use puts their loved ones in harm’s danger, or has otherwise hurt others, if they have any empathy at all they will either quit or start quitting.

On the other hand, someone who is addicted will try, but usually fail the first attempt. Addiction is hard, and among other things, it robs you of choice. It always starts with a choice – one that all addicts eventually learn to regret – but it turns into the inability to trust your own word, losing faith in yourself as others question your integrity, as you find yourself irresistibly drawn to doing things you shouldn’t be doing because deep down inside, you just can’t stop.

That’s one way to tell. But many successfully repress those thoughts and don’t even realize that their behavior is something they can’t completely control. They find ways to excuse it, or worse yet, their family enables them without meaning to. Either way, addiction can only be treated if the person who is addicted firmly decides to get help. While you can force someone into rehab or into a sober living home, they have to want to get better. And sometimes, that can take some convincing.

 

Seeing the Signs

There aren’t too many signs that clearly correlate with addiction, and it’s generally impossible to know if someone is an addict unless you spend enough time with them while having the professional expertise and experience to make that call, but if your loved one has been showing any of the following signs, you’ll want to try to convince them to get some professional help regardless of what they’re dealing with.

  • Unexplained behavior
  • Irritability
  • Physical signs of drug abuse (bloodshot eyes, track marks, frequent nose bleeds, dental problems)
  • Poor hygiene/massive weight fluctuations
  • Trouble with memory
  • Chaotic sleeping cycle
  • Problems at work
  • Physical evidence of drug use (drug paraphernalia)

Note that these don’t necessarily point only to drug use. While some do – like paraphernalia and track marks – others are much subtler, and can often imply any number of other issues, from a different disease or disorder to other behavior that might be breaking a person’s trust (in other words: lying).

 

Trust Matters

If you’re going to help your loved one and believe that they may be struggling with an addiction they haven’t admitted to, then trust is critical for moving forward. They have to believe that you have their absolute best interests at heart, and that what they’ve been doing violates that trust, and hurts you.

Regardless of whether or not they’re addicted, if your loved one’s drug use is bleeding over into your life together, causing problems and pain, you need to convince them to get help. It starts with talking about the pain caused by the addiction – then, it’s time to talk about what can be done to fix the problem together.

Again, trust is important here. If you’re partners, then you standing with your partner will be very, very important. It should never be your job to babysit your partner, but your support will matter greatly in helping your loved one get back on their own two feet and maintain their sobriety for months and years to come.

 

If You’re Asking Yourself, Get Help

If you’re wondering if your drug use counts as an addiction, chances are that things have gone far enough that you’re considering at least some of your actions to be outside your control, or that something happened to make you reconsider your behavior. It’s a good idea, if you’re worried about your mental health and the possibility of an addiction, to just book an appointment with a doctor specializing in addiction or with a psychiatrist to get a formal diagnosis.

Yes, the tell-tale sign of addiction is when your drug use interferes with your daily life in a significant way. When your behavior begins to harm others and you can’t do anything to stop it, it’s clear that you’re no longer in full control over your own choices.

If you’re asking yourself whether you’re addicted or not, the smart thing to do is get help and figure it out through a reliable, professional diagnosis. Addiction is treatable, and although it is considered a chronic disease, regular treatment and a commitment towards getting better can net you incredible results, and have you living a normal life.

Things arguably won’t ever be “back” to how they were, but they can be different – better, in fact, than ever before. It takes a little faith in the professionals who help you and a lot of trust in the people you know and love, but addictions can be overcome with time and the right treatment plan.

Addiction Grinds Your Life to a Halt

Addiction Grinds Life To A Halt

Sometimes, you can’t think straight, talk in complete sentences, or even get up and do the things you know you have to do. Functioning like a “normal” person is out of question, and what should be at the forefront of your mind has been pushed thoroughly to the back, while your primary occupation is, as per usual, this intense need for something that you’ve been struggling with for weeks, months, or even years.

Drug use and addiction are not the same thing, but for the millions of Americans who have struggled or still do struggle with substance abuse and addiction, the day-to-day reality of not functioning without your fix, and often not functioning with it, is terrifying. Much like most of life becomes terrifying. For those who have never been addicted, the simplest analogy is to think of addiction as a mental prison, an inescapable vice grip on a person’s mind and thinking. Responsibility and choice aren’t completely gone – after all, you can choose to get help – but your ability to act on your choices is limited by your ability to withstand the symptoms and cravings that come with abstinence, which are often overpowering, like thirst or real hunger.

Most Americans have tried illicit drugs, not to mention legal vices like alcohol and nicotine. Teens and adults in their 20s are most susceptible to drug use, and most who end up struggling with that is defined as a dependence issue end up getting addicted around this age. As their peers give up recreational drug use to focus on their goals, many find themselves stuck. It can take years or decades, but most eventually get unstuck. In fact, as they get older, many actually stop using even without treatment.

But others can’t. The difference isn’t the disease, but the circumstances. Addiction will truly grind your life to a halt, and unless the right set of circumstances help you age out of drug use, it takes the help of formal treatment to get you to the point where you can heal properly. Decades of research have led to the current hypothesis that addiction is a treatable disease, one that might be considered chronic in the way its symptoms can reoccur over time. But the right lifestyle and emotional support can help those who have previously struggled to get clean for years truly stay sober for the rest of their lives. By understanding how addiction changes lives, the way past the disease becomes clearer.

 

How Addiction Can Change Your Life

The difference between drug use and dependence is that when you’re dependent on a drug, you cannot go without it. This isn’t to say that you simply crave it all the time, but you actually cannot go through a day without seriously obsessing over your drug of choice, to the point that it begins to negatively impact your life.

At first, the impact might not even be noticeable to most people, or even yourself. At other times, the impact is hidden by another problem that’s eating away at your life, causing havoc as well. Anything from losing your livelihood to surviving one tragedy after another can lead a person through a cascade of emotional problems, with addiction being just one of many possible aftermaths.

But one way or another, addiction takes the place of many other things in life. It takes away relationships, choice, opportunities, and, most importantly, it gives the illusion of taking away pain. That alone is how most addictions continue to perpetuate themselves, through weeks, months, and years. It’s why addiction is most prevalent in teens and young adults, even as it continues to feed off them for years after. If you don’t have a way to cope with your pain, and if all other options are out, a drug can look like your best shot at feeling better. Instead, it makes things worse.

 

Making the Choice to Get Help

Regardless of how dependence begins, it always leads to a self-perpetuating cycle. Most people try to stay sober once they realize they’re addicted, and some do get sober, time and time again.

It isn’t easy or possible alone. Statistically, some people get clean and stay clean without professional help. But they still need help. It’s the support and love of friends and family that is necessary to help a person push through the hardest days, and the hardest nights. Beating addiction means staying sober over days, weeks, and years. But it starts with the choice to get help.

The reason help matters so much is because of how addiction affects the mind. Most people who struggle with physical dependence on drugs also struggle with withdrawal symptoms, severe cravings, and a series of emotional problems tied to their drug use. Drug use also takes its toll not just on the body but on the mind, cutting into a person’s cognition and increasing their drive to take unnecessary risks.

Drug use treatment, in essence, utilizes pharmacological and psychological therapy to help a person find their own way out of addiction. In the early days, that means providing them with the drug-free environment they need to stay away from drugs at their most crucial hour. Over time, that means providing them with the emotional stability and support to help them continue living a life without drugs, by learning to cope with stress and tragedy in a healthier way, processing old nightmares and working towards creating a better, more positive outlook for the future.

 

Relapse Isn’t Failure

It’s okay to fail and stumble. Enough has been said about failure being a path to learning, but not enough is said about how important it is to find a way to deal with the immense pain that comes from disappointing yourself or others. There’s no denying that if you are or ever have been motivated to stay clean, a relapse is incredibly demoralizing. Telling someone to just “get over it” won’t do much to help that.

That is why it is important to rethink the whole thing, instead. The true failure lies in giving up completely: in putting your arms up and deciding you won’t work on getting clean any longer. The real failure would be using a relapse as an excuse to argue that you simply cannot get clean. There are some things you should never give up on, and that includes your own life. Letting an addiction run its course can, and often does mean you’re signing a death warrant. Sometimes – especially early on – it’s okay to relapse. But it isn’t okay to give up on yourself.

 

How to Handle A Relapse

How To Handle Relapses

Relapses can happen, especially early on in your recovery. Up to 90 percent of people who try to quit drinking may have at least one relapse until they manage a form of long-term sobriety, for example. Rather than homing in on your “failure”, it’s important to realize that these early relapses are rather common and are, in a way, a natural part of the recovery process.

Learning how to handle a relapse and use it to prepare for the future is an important step in the recovery process. Here are a few basic tips to help you get through your relapse and use it for the better.

 

Take Deep Breaths

Don’t let one relapse kick you off the right path. Relapses won’t make you forget everything you’ve learned about what it means to be sober, but they might leave you a little disillusioned, especially at first. It’s easy to be disappointed in yourself after a relapse. But don’t give up on your sobriety, no matter what.

Take a few deep breaths, and internalize that relapses are common in early recovery. Most people relapse from stress or pressure. It’s often that people maintain a high level of motivation and control immediately after a sobriety program or a recovery program has ended, but if you don’t keep in touch through group meetings or continue to educate and immerse yourself in recovery material, then it’s easy for time to erode your motivation and increase your cravings. Then, all it takes is the right circumstance to push you over the edge.

Learning to take deep breaths is the first step to figuring out what other ways you can calm down, relax, and manage your stress. It’s also important to have a plan in place for when you’re feeling the urge and can’t find a way to stop it from growing.

 

Call Someone

Recovery is a “solo path”, but we all need people in our corner. Having someone to rely on, or better yet, having a group of people you can rely on, is critical for recovery. This is something that can’t easily be done alone – but if you have friends and family who can help and support you, then even the rougher days are a little easier.

If you relapse, call someone. The first few moments after you realize that you’ve made a mistake are the scariest, and it’s difficult to think straight. Calling someone you can trust and rely on means giving yourself time to absorb what happened, and know that things will be alright, even if they don’t seem that way in the moment. From there, it’s important to focus on getting back on the right path.

 

Get Back into A Program

Sober living homes are the best bet for someone who has recently gone through a relapse. Different from usual forms of residential treatment, these homes are built as a sort of community for recovering addicts to come together and spend some time in a drug-free environment, until they sort things out.

All sober living homes have their own individual ruleset, but some basic rules throughout most sober living facilities include:

  • No drugs.
  • No violence or fighting.
  • A strict curfew.
  • Mandatory contributions, through chores and such.
  • Group meetings and events.
  • Monthly fees (rent).
  • Mandatory school attendance/job/employment-seeking efforts.

Sober living homes are designed to help individuals learn the manage the stress of sober living and ease the transition from a rehab program to every day life. However, they can also be a great place to rededicate yourself to sobriety after a relapse. By taking the pressure off through a drug-free environment, you can continue to lead your normal life while learning more about your relapse through therapy. Working to figure out what led you to relapse in the first place can help you avoid a relapse in the future.

 

What Does A Relapse Mean?

It’s very important to understand why relapses happen. Not just in general, but specifically. Most relapses are triggered, helping recovering addicts learn something about their recovery. Perhaps there’s a certain thing they’re struggling with. A relationship, a worry, an anxiety of sorts. Addiction can amplify these emotions, and they can be particularly strong during early recovery, where everything is in flux. Perhaps the trigger can help you, as the person who has relapsed, better understand how life affects your recovery, and adjust accordingly.

Relapses shouldn’t be seen as failures – rather, they’re bumps in the road that give you the necessary cue to stop, look around, and evaluate what’s going on.

Of course, relapses are scary. And yes, you should avoid them. But no matter how your recovery goes, don’t give up on it. Relapses aren’t failures – but they can cause you to doubt your ability to get through this crucial stage of recovery. Don’t let them knock down your resolve.

 

Do Not Worry

A relapse can cause you to question many things. Above all else, it will cause you to question your devotion and commitment to being sober – and in turn, your commitment to others, especially if you have family and friends working to support you while you make it through this. A relapse can make you ask yourself: “Can I really do this? Can I really stay sober, if I keep messing up like this?”

By understanding that relapses are not character flaws, but signs that there’s simply something you can work on in your recovery, you can overcome these needless worries. To put things into perspective, more than half of all people who go through recovery relapse before the first year is up. Some relapse more than once. And it takes continuous work to stay sober. Yet if they keep up with their treatment and recovery nonetheless, they eventually reach a point around the year mark or so where the relapses stop happening as frequently, or at all.

Early recovery can be the roughest portion of the journey. Not that it’s always smooth sailing afterwards, but by working on identifying the causes and conditions for your relapses, you can learn to avoid certain triggers, better manage your feelings, stay away from certain locations or events, and move past these temporary challenges. In other words: it gets easier.

 

Can You Be Addicted to Sex?

Can You Be Addicted To Sex

Drug addiction is heavily covered all over media as the country tackles a major opioid crisis. It’s a problem that touches millions of Americans, taking thousands of lives via overdose and accidents, while putting a major dent on the country’s healthcare system. Yet while substance abuse is a deathly serious issue, addiction comes in many different forms.

Behavioral addiction, in the sense that a person can be addicted to doing something rather than taking something, works very differently from substance use. Yet behavioral disorders are still very damaging conditions that cause much suffering, and they can be treated through proper treatment. Sex addiction is one form of behavioral addiction wherein a person compulsively seeks out sex and sexual gratification to cope with stress, or sometimes just to function at all.

 

Explaining Sex Addiction

Sex, food, and gambling are common examples of addictions that exist separately from our typical definitions of substance dependence. For example, when a person snorts cocaine, the drug enters the bloodstream and makes its way into the brain. There, it blocks the brain’s cells ability to recycle dopamine, causing a flood of this “happy” neurotransmitter to build up in the nerve cells. This is what creates the high feeling of euphoria, but eventually leads to a chemical dependence. The brain reacts to this sudden influx of dopamine by trying to adapt to it, leading to cravings, tolerance, withdrawal, and addiction.

Sex and food, predominantly, are different dependences but very similar in addictive patterns. A food addiction is actually a form of disordered eating, wherein a person utilizes the mind’s natural inclination to reward us for eating (as a survival mechanism) in order to cope with stress – by seeking out instant gratification. Some people eat far too much, binge eating and stress eating to feel better, which leads to self-esteem issues, health problems, and a repeating cycle.

Sexual gratification works the same way but is much more nuanced. Sex addiction is an intimacy issue wherein a person fears close relationships and real emotional interaction, and trades these for a quick release through porn, masturbation, hookups, or cheating.

Sex addiction is not a label to shame people who have lots of sex. It’s not used to describe people who consensually engage in polygamy. Sex addiction isn’t an explanation of any number of legal kinks, including safe bondage. People express themselves sexually in many ways – it only becomes a mental health concern when their sexual activity gets in the way of healthy human interaction: wrecking relationships, causing trouble at work, and leading to a downward spiral mentally and physically.

 

Sex Addiction Treatment

Sex addiction is treatable, but not in the same way as alcoholism or drug abuse. Drugs are inherently addictive, and an important step of recovery is finding a sober lifestyle that allows a patient to remain abstinent.

Sex is not something sex addicts are meant to abstain from forever, although they are free to choose celibacy if they consider it to be the only way. Instead, therapists work with sex addicts on a one-on-one basis or through couple’s therapy to get to the bottom of their addiction and figure out why they turned to sex in the first place. Like people who self-medicate, sex addiction is rooted in the need to cope, and the inability to do so in a healthy way.

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is important in helping a recovering sex addict realize why they use sex to feel better. From there, rules and exercises are used to help establish a better concept of sex and the role it should play. The difference between healthy and disordered sex is the effect it has on a person’s life outside the bedroom, and therapy aims to address and eliminate the negative effects.

Gender-separated or sexual-preference-based sober living can be a good way to focus on therapy by forcing celibacy during initial treatment. Sober living environments aim to help recovering addicts learn how to interact in normal society, maintain responsibilities, remain accountable towards one another, and form lasting and meaningful friendships, while removing all sources of temptation and promoting a completely drug-free living space.

 

Dating and Relationships after Recovery

It’s about more than sex. To understand why a recovering sex addict might have great difficulties with dating and relationships after treatment, it’s important to understand that sex addiction is more than just a proclivity for getting off, or a lifestyle choice. Sex addiction is an intimacy disorder.

That means people who struggle with sex addiction often struggle with truth, transparency, and with being open, honest and vulnerable. They fear these things because they are potentially hurtful and can cause great pain if exploited.

Sex is fun, sex is easy, sex is instantly gratifying and for all its messiness and potential problems, sex remains simple and straightforward. For individuals who fear real emotional closeness but crave the physical intimacy of another human being, sex is perfect – and dangerously addicting.

And wanting sexual pleasure doesn’t go away. While you can eventually stop craving drugs and can learn to live without them, many people cannot realistically remain celibate or force themselves to forget and ignore their own natural lust and desire. Curing a sex addiction isn’t a matter of abstinence and self-control – it’s a matter of unraveling a person’s intimacy issues and making them face their own fear of commitment, integrity, and reality. Therapists who help individuals with sex addiction often note that a sex addict uses sex to interact with people while avoiding neglect, abuse, or abandonment. They fear loneliness but cannot be in long-term relationships. They’ve learned to be satisfied with the immediate and the short-term, when what they really want is slow and difficult.

To overcome sex addiction and return to dating, a recovering sex addict has to learn to love themselves. They have to learn to trust themselves. And they have to learn to trust others, even complete strangers, and accept the risk of getting hurt in exchange for the possibility of a beautiful and blossoming relationship, and a chance at real and meaningful love. It can take a while to find the right person, especially if you have no experience with real and concrete relationships.

You may find yourself emotionally hurt, which can be difficult to stomach without reverting to your old ways, but you have to remember that it takes time to learn what kind of person you should be looking for, and it takes just as long to learn to look past a person’s sex appeal and focus on creating and fostering a long-term relationship.

If you’ve gone through treatment and have a better grasp of who you are and why sex was a problem for you, you may want to start dating again. Before you engage in a relationship, try to make sure that:

  • You have a sturdy and reliable support system in place.
  • You’re regularly engaging in therapy and are tackling codependent issues, from self-esteem problems to other possible addictions.
  • You’ve been cleared by a medical doctor and are clean from any possible infectious diseases.
  • You feel emotionally ready to be honest and open with another human being and aren’t seeking a relationship purely for physical gratification.

If you can give each point on this list a check, then you may be ready. Just remember that you could get hurt, and make sure to ask for help from friends and therapists if or when you do.

The Issue of “Choice”

Addiction and Choice

Addiction is not a choice. No one chooses to be addicted. To be addicted is to be trapped in a cage of your own making. You can get out, but unlike any other ordinary cage, the urge to crawl back in is too powerful to resist at times.

Yet when you’re in, the door locks itself again, and you’re filled with regret. You want to get out, but it’s hard. When you’re finally out again, the urge to go back begins anew.

Like a special hell, addiction is not something anyone willingly signs up for. You find yourself struggling day in and day out, and your cage grows ever tighter. It was fun at first, but it becomes harder and harder to feel like you felt that first time around, and the way out becomes more and more elusive.

But why? Why do addictive drugs make us feel that way? What is it that makes people feel trapped, unable to escape, only to be sucked back in when they finally do manage to break away? Why is addiction not a choice? The answer lies in your brain.

 

Why Addiction Isn’t a Choice

Let’s start by understanding that the emotions we feel are strictly a result of chemical interactions in the brain mostly in response to our environment. When you’re feeling sad, melancholy, nostalgic, angry, happy, or in love, there’s a complex series of signals going off in your mind, with neurotransmitters going from brain cell to brain cell, communicating and making you feel. You, as a whole, function as a system, and that system is controlled by thoughts and emotions.

The brain is where these emotions happen, influenced in large part by external stimuli. When you see a puppy, your first instinct is to think of it as something cute. We feel this way towards most baby animals, but we feel this way the most towards baby mammals that look the most like other humans. Dogs are particularly wired into our subconscious because we’ve been domesticating them for millennia, but it’s all part of a greater need to protect the small and weak, so they can survive and thrive in this world.

Sexual attraction works much the same way. A combination of subconscious cues attracts us to certain facial shapes, body types, pheromones, and smells.

With anger, and rage, your stress levels go through the roof and if a threat is clear, then your adrenal gland sends you into a fight or flight response. This is common in response to sudden pain – in the moment of being hit, you see red, and your first instinct is to identify the source of the pain while the anger washes over you. Occasionally, some wires get crossed, thoughts turn dark, and our anger grows too strong.

 

Your Brain on Fun and Pleasure

Pleasure is one of the most important feelings. Our ability to feel good about something allows the brain to reinforce behavior, allowing us to highlight important things, and figure out what it is that we need to do again in order to feel that way. Exercise, good food, sexual activity, social status, and personal accomplishment are among a few different things that make us essentially feel good, boosting our self-esteem and confidence, washing away negative emotions, making us yearn to be a bigger part of the tribe, and giving us a sense of contentment. We crave to repeat those experiences, and we seek them out. In some cases, this backfires. For example, because we’re built to process simple carbohydrates as a quick fuel source, we generally crave sweet things. Sweetness is rare in nature, generally. But through industrialization, companies can capitalize on this inner need to consume sugar, by selling it to us in various forms, causing us to quickly gain more weight than we should.

Addiction is another such consequence. Very few specific compounds interact with the brain as though they were neurotransmitters, only that these compounds are much more powerful than what our body would ever produce, creating an otherworldly emotional and physical state known as a high. You’re overcome with pleasure and a sense of calm, while dopamine floods your brain.

Soon after that first high, you begin to want a second. It’s innocuous at first, and many can experiment with such substances and never develop a need for them. But if you’re in the wrong mindset, and crave to feel good, that first high quickly turns into a fifth, a tenth, a twentieth. There’s no specific number for getting addicted, but over time and somewhere along the way, it all clicks, and you’re stuck.

When you start taking a drug that is deemed addictive, it changes the way your brain processes pleasure. The first high doesn’t change much, but it lays the foundations for greater modification. You see, the brain is very adaptive. That’s one of its great strengths, because it allows us to survive under the most horrific circumstances, by pivoting and adapting to our surroundings. But when presented with something like an addictive drug, the brain adapts in the other way, by numbing the drug’s effectiveness – and, in the process, making everything else pale in comparison to the drug.

This is called tolerance, and with it comes withdrawal – the brain begins to rely on the drug as a regular occurrence and stopping causes you to experience unpleasant physical and mental symptoms, including nausea, fever, and irritability.

 

It Starts with Choice

People generally get addicted for two reasons: internal factors, and environmental factors. Internal factors are largely genetic. Some people are predisposed to getting addicted, because of the way their brain responds to certain substances. Others are simply more likely to get addicted because they’re more likely to seek out drugs to begin with, perhaps because of another condition like a major depressive disorder.

Environmental factors are everything else. A bad childhood, early trauma, loss and pressure, stress at work, a life in disarray, the need to fit in – there are many reasons people start using drugs, and most of the time, they start using as a choice. Some find themselves in truly terrible positions, where drug use is forced upon them by a controlling partner, but others find themselves in a mentally vulnerable place, where their judgment is clouded and the ability to think of the risks is diminished to the point where they don’t matter to that person, in that moment, for any given number of reasons.

That’s how it begins, but it always turns into the same thing – a cage, getting smaller and smaller.

 

Patience is Key

Drug treatment is largely based on successfully treating a person therapeutically, by giving them the tools to decide to stay sober long enough for their past to no longer haunt them. Time is what really treats an addiction – time away from the drug helps the brain recover, and it helps you set up a life that you won’t ever give up that easily ever again.

But it’s important to be patient, and to understand that there will likely be missteps and setbacks. This time, however, you have the choice to move past them get back on track no matter what happens.