The Science of Addiction
Addiction is looked at differently today than it used to be. Although it still involves several factors, it all comes down to a known medical condition. People who become addicted to certain things actually have a treatable disease. Find out how science is changing the way we diagnose and treat people with addictions.
Defining AddictionNeuroscientists define addiction in medical terms as a chronic, relapsing brain disease. Addiction is considered a brain disease because it alters the brain in fundamental, long-lasting ways. That is not surprising when you consider that the brain changes constantly in response to our everyday experiences. Addiction is also a developmental disease—it typically begins in childhood or adolescence. Evidence about early drug abuse for example, finds that it starts most often in the teen years. Imagine the more dramatic changes produced by powerful substances like alcohol or heroin, on the developing brain of a young person.
Stages of AddictionThere are 3 related stages in addiction:
- Acute Drug Effect: At this early stage, the individual experiences the rewarding effects of the addictive drug. Dopamine is the key brain chemical involved at this stage.
- Transition to Addiction: At this stage, the individual transitions from recreational use to actual addiction.
- End Stage Addiction: At the final stage, the individual
- Experiences a strong urge to get the addictive drug
- Loses control of the drug-seeking desire
- Experiences a diminished pleasure after using the addictive drug