To be addicted means for the vast majority of people to be so attached to something that you cannot manage without it. This is a simple explanation or definition, and shows how we use the word addiction in our everyday speech. But being addicted is so much more than just a simple explanation.
Because why do you become addicted to drugs ? So dependent on sacrificing all worldly goods and gold to experience the intoxication? In this article, we will go into more detail about the causes of drug addiction. We will look at what happens in the body and in the brain when the intoxication takes over. Substance abuse and its causes are important to understand in order to see where addiction comes from.
Old thoughts about the causes of addiction
In the past, there was a very simple and simplistic view of what addiction was. Becoming addicted to something was the consequence of having repeated an action or taken drugs enough times. This led to an image of addicts as weak-willed people. If only they had a little more will and routine, addiction would not be a problem.
The research of the 60s gave us a picture that the addict chose the drug over healthier alternatives. In experiments conducted, rats were housed in individual cages. The researchers gave them the choice between heroin-laced water and plain water.
The rats in these experiments consistently chose the drug. Some of the isolated rats became so addicted to the drug that they forgot all other important basic needs for survival. The only thing that became important to them was getting more heroin.
The conclusion of these experiments was that availability was the fundamental factor behind addiction. If the rats had access to drugs, they would choose it. A direct parallel was drawn to humans because of our genetic similarity to rats.
Why do people become addicted to drugs?
Does the early 60s research hold up as an explanation for why people become addicted to drugs? No, absolutely not! A famous experiment called ‘The Rat Park Experiment’ laid the foundation for the nature of addiction as it is most familiar to us today.
This experiment was carried out in the 70s, but the findings are just as valid today. The Rat Park Experiment’ challenged 60s research and findings by adding social aspects . Rats, like humans, are social creatures.
The researchers behind the experiment wanted to see if free and socialized rats in a park make different choices than isolated rats in individual cages. The choices made by the free rats in the rat park were compared to the choices made by caged rats in the same experiment.
The finding was unequivocal and striking: the free rats that were social chose the drugs to a much higher degree than the isolated rats. This shows that social isolation can be a very important factor when it comes to the development of drug addiction.
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Research into substance abuse and its causes is still being done
Research is still ongoing into the origins of addiction. New research has shown that the brain changes as you become addicted to drugs. This applies to both the activity in the brain and the structure of the brain. The addiction creates new connections in the brain which means that the brain gets a new way of functioning.
Examples of structural and activity-related changes that occur in the brain of someone who is addicted to drugs are:
- Changes in ability to connect
- Changes in ability to learn
- Changes in ability to control
- Changes in relation to emotion regulation
- Changes in relation to assessments
The biggest change in the brain of drug addicts is the changes that occur in the reward system . This system is called the mesolimbic system or nucleus accumbens. In this part of the brain, the neurotransmitter dopamine is an important factor.
Dopamine is called the ‘happiness trigger’ and when it is released, people feel happy and satisfied. Dopamine can be released by falling in love, training, success or other factors that are perceived as beneficial to us.
Drug addiction occurs, among other things, because the reward center in the brain is stimulated extremely intensely by drug addiction. This tells your brain that using drugs is a good activity that should be repeated.
Today’s society also takes a look in life’s rearview mirror to investigate possible causes of drug addiction. Major injuries and traumas in childhood can leave such deep traces that the person develops complex psychological difficulties.
The difficulties or symptoms can be expressed as drug addiction. The drug can be a method to cover up soul wounds, an escape from life and a way to feel good again.
No one knows the real origin of addiction
Being able to give a simple answer to what addiction is is, so to speak, impossible. Because why do people become addicted to drugs, while others do not have the same tendency? Do all the answers lie in social skills and the avoidance of social isolation?
The most important thing when it comes to the causes of addiction is not to have a simplistic picture of what this is. New research is constantly coming out that tries to explain what addiction is and why people become addicted to drugs.
Causes of addiction do not depend on the willpower of the individual. Addiction is today described as a disease , and can thus be treated.
In order to reach out to the individual struggling with addiction, we must have a society that values openness and acceptance when it comes to addiction. Many people may feel a great deal of shame around their own addiction. This shame can act as a wall between the addict and the help that is waiting.
There are many alternative forms of help and therapy that are readily available today. Online therapy, group therapy, discussion groups and several other forms of help are only a few clicks away. Here you can get help to deal with your own addiction and explore personal reasons why the addiction arose.