Understanding Addiction

Addiction is devastating. It destroys the life, work, health, and relationships of the person suffering and those who love them. Almost 23 million Americans suffer addiction to alcohol or drugs. Other millions are addicted to behaviors, such as gambling or sex.

Overcoming addiction isn’t easy, and you can’t expect to succeed on your own. You need professional help. At South Plains Rural Health, serving members of the areas around Levelland, Lamesa, and Big Spring, Texas, the mental health support team is ready to provide the support you need.

If a substance or behavior has taken over you or a loved one’s life, read on to learn more about how complex addition is and how you can get help.

Addiction is a disease

Addiction is a disease that wreaks havoc on your brain. It starts with simple use of a substance, like alcohol or opioids, or a behavior, like gambling. When the substance or behavior starts to take over your life, it’s crossed the line into addiction.

Addiction actually changes the way the brain works. You experience lasting changes to the way your brain functions and operates. With time, you build up a tolerance and need more and more of the substance to stimulate your pleasure centers.

Addiction causes brain changes

Substances actually hijack the areas of your brain responsible for judgment, emotional regulation, self-control, motivation, memory, and learning.

All pleasures, whether elicited from a good meal, monetary reward, or psychoactive drug, cause the release of dopamine to stimulate your brain’s pleasure center. Addictive drugs and behaviors are an easy way to achieve pleasure, and your brain remembers this rapid sense of satisfaction.

Addictive drugs, like heroin, cause 2-10 times the amount of dopamine to be released as compared to natural rewards.

The brain develops a conditioned response that makes it want to seek out the pleasurable experience. Repeated exposure to the addictive substance or behavior makes it so that you not only like something, but you want it. Addiction means you will do almost anything to have access to the substance or behavior that triggers pleasure.

However, the shortcut to pleasure overloads your brain. With time, your overwhelmed brain turns down its dopamine response – like turning down volume on a speaker when it’s too loud -- and makes the addictive substance or activity less pleasurable, so you need more to get a “fix.”

Signs of addiction

When you notice drinking, drugs, or a certain behavior are causing the following, seek professional treatment at South Plains Rural Health to address addiction:

Addiction can cause physical symptoms, such as vomiting, depression, and shakiness. You may have tried to quit on your own, but were unsuccessful.

Overcoming addiction isn’t easy, but it is possible. The professionals at South Plains Rural Health are here to help. Call the nearest location, or schedule an appointment online with a counselor who can help you come to terms with your addiction and get the assistance you need.

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