What Causes Addiction?

Wow! What a question to answer in a limited amount of space. Some say it is genetic. It may be for some folks. Some say it is environmental. In other words, we learned it from the people and situations we grew up around. That may be for some folks. Others say it is created by a neurotransmitter (chemicals in your brain) deficiency. That could be true. Still others say addiction is given it's opportunity because we are morally unfit, or we are just perverted in some way. This one I don't believe. Could the cause of addiction for any individual be due to a combination of factors? Now that, I can believe.

Let's take a look at those brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters. It could be true that some of us were born with a deficiency in one or more of these naturally occurring substances. It could also be true that we developed a deficiency due to our drug and/or alcohol abuse. Below is a list of the major transmitters and what they are responsible for in our systems:

Endorphins pain control
Dopamine reward or pleasure
Seratonin rational emotions, emotional balance
GABA stress management
Acetacholine concentration, memory
Norepinephrine energizer

Have you ever heard somebody say that the first time they used a particular drug was the first time they can remember feeling "normal"? And, it is the chasing of that "normal" feeling that draws them back to the drug as much as the high. It could be that individual had a transmitter deficiency their whole life. This does not mean they were destined to become addicted. It does mean that the risk of becoming dependent are increased if that person ever uses.

When a person abuses drugs or alcohol, the body believes there is no need to work so hard making those neuro transmitters. So, over time, we develop a deficiency of the naturally occurring chemicals. We have to continue to use just to feel "normal." Of course, with time, the definition of "normal" changes.

After beginning a recovery program it will take time for our bodies and our minds to heal and regenerate. What kind of time? That varies from weeks to months.

So, what do you do? Get clean and sober. Get a life. Eat right. Get some exercise. Sleep well. Get involved with a 12 step program or other support group. Consider talking with your counselor on a regular basis, not just when there is some kind of crisis or when you feel like shootin' the breeze.

Rick B.

What Drives Addiction?

According to Dr. Joel Robertson, in his book, "Help Yourself", what initiates and drives addiction are the psychological needs we all have in order to feel good. Maslow's theory discusses more than psychological needs and puts the needs in his theory into a hierarchy, i.e., you don't move from one level to the one above it without fulfilling the need(s) represented in the lower level. Robertson describes a theory that says there is no hierarchy. We have six basis psychological needs that must be satisfied simultaneously for us to feel good. Below is a list of those needs:

  1. Adequacy - The belief that I am enough. I can.
  2. Acceptance - Belonging to a group of people.
  3. Recognition - Being validated by other people, not necessarily from the group that accepts us.
  4. Pleasure - The ability to have fun. To feel like there is something to look forward to on a regular basis.
  5. Power - Similar to the feeling of adequacy. It is not thinking or believing that we have power over, or control of other people. It is more the belief that we are not victims.
  6. Responsibility Avoidance - This is the knowledge and the commitment that we are not responsible for the entire world, beginning with our little corner of it.

So, what is the theory? If the using of our substance of preference seemed to satisfy one or more of our psychological needs, then we will be tempted, probably compelled to use that substance again…not so much because we liked the substance and it's physical effects, but because it seemed to satisfy one or more of our psychological needs in a way that nothing else had, up to that point in time. Furthermore, from that time on when we feel inadequate, powerless, unaccepted, etc., will be when we are the most prone to use again. This would also be true even after we have been clean and sober for a significant period of time. Part of the key to an ongoing recovery is to find ways to fulfill our psychological needs in healthy ways.

Adapted from "Helping Yourself," J. Robertson MD

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Dr. Candace McDaniel
8021 East R.L. Thornton Fwy, Suite A
Dallas, Texas 75228

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