Addiction has been around since the dawn of mankind. It is everywhere in today’s society, especially in the media. Unfortunately, many people still don’t see addiction as the disease that it truly is. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, “Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry.” Another misconception about addiction is that it only involves substance abuse, but in reality anything a person finds pleasurable can turn into an addiction. The media portrays addiction in many different ways, but again, most of it only involves substance abuse, and not behavioral addictions.
The term addiction typically has a ...view middle of the document...
It’s also been shown that hormones may affect addiction as well. For example, women who are in the late stage of their menstrual cycle show more nicotine cravings than in the earlier stages, or when they are not menstruating (Lemonick, M.)
Although addiction is not limited to drugs, it is more common and substance abuse is portrayed in the media more often than behavioral addiction. Most any drug can become an issue, it just depends on the persons “reward center” of the brain and how it reacts to the drug. As shown in the chart above, different substances vary in their levels of dependence. For example, Nicotine- the drug found in cigarettes and various forms of tobacco- has an incredibly high rate of dependence, while Marijuana does not. The addictiveness of these drugs, however, is not correlated to their intoxication levels. Marijuana, as you can see, has a slightly higher intoxication level than Nicotine, however Marijuana is far less addictive (Addictive Properties of Popular Drugs).
Drugs affect the body in many different ways. Most drugs affect the brain stem, limbic system, and cerebral cortex. The brain stem controls functions such as our breathing, blood circulation, and our ability to operate and move our muscles. The limbic system controls our emotional responses, which is why many people act differently, or overreact, when they are under the influence of a substance. The cerebral cortex is the part of our brain the processes sensory information, such as seeing and hearing. When this is inhibited, it is very dangerous to drive and is a reason why so many people receive DUI’s (National Institute on Drug Abuse).
Specific drugs affect the body in various ways. Heroin, for example, works by activating neurons via chemical structures that are similar to neurotransmitters. The chemicals in this drug, however, don’t work like real neurotransmitters, so the brain receives strange messages that don’t necessarily make sense. Alcohol, on the other hand, works by releasing extra endorphins into your system which triggers the reward center of your brain. Studies have shown that the affects of alcohol may be genetic, as it has been revealed that some people naturally release a larger quantity of endorphins than others when drinking the same amount. According to Jennifer M. Mitchel, PhD. “Greater endorphin release was associated with more hazardous drinking.” (National Institute on Drug Abuse).
Unfortunately, addiction is not limited to only substances. Any activity that is remotely pleasurable for a person can turn into an addiction. Foods such as sugar, salt, and fat cause our brains to release extra dopamine which makes us feel good. When we feel good from eating, our brain tells us to continue eating which can lead to obesity and binge eating. Activities such as gambling, sex, exercising, and shopping can also turn into addictions. These activities make us feel good, so people often turn to them in times of crisis to get their dopamine...