Addiction! After a long dilemma, this has finally been identified as a chronic brain disorder, thanks to the release of a document by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM).
It is very important for society to understand that addiction is a function of the human brain to reuse ‘good’ or ‘high’ experiences after the ‘pleasure point’ of the brain is satiated. If this satiation is caused by the use of a particular substance, we tend to reuse it more and more to the point that it becomes addictive.
For years people have been blaming drugs or alcohol abuse for addictive behaviors. But it has now been proved, through many scientific studies, that even substance-free behaviors such as gambling, sex, exercise, eating, tanning, etc. can affect the brain in somewhat similar ways, with significant consequences. This doesn’t mean that one should be restrictive with eating or exercise. However, it does indicate that one should be well aware of the risks – especially when undergoing treatment.
It’s an aspect of human behavior to repeat something that gives pleasure. Those of us who have an addictive tendency are therefore likely to repeat those pleasurable behaviors over and over again in order to regain that initial high. Addicts continue to repeat them, even if the high is no longer pleasurable, just because the brain has gotten used to it.
It is important to understand that behaviors such as exercising, eating, having sex, etc., only become harmful in extreme cases. Others, such as tanning, gambling, consuming alcohol, etc., should be kept to a minimum and monitored. Behaviors such as abusing drugs can be dangerous – potentially fatal even in small doses. During recovery from substance abuse problems and addiction, all these behaviors need to be monitored and regularly checked – even those that seem harmless – because of the brain’s functional tendencies and its potential to get over the top.
Recovery means practicing self-control, being aware of activities and habits and defining limits for yourself. Even small things like tanning, exercising, chocolate, gambling, etc., that previously have not been a concern for you, still need to be watched. If you can’t keep to the limits you set, then walk away – or get help. If you find yourself covering up, lying about an activity or missing work or social plans to engage in it, then you have a problem. It doesn’t matter if it’s heroin, shopping or internet gaming – if an activity or behavior has started to dominate your life’s daily schedule, blocking the other areas of thought, step back and ask yourself, “Is this what I want as my top priority? Is this stopping me from achieving my goals?” Once you get an answer to that question, you will know how and where to proceed and what your course of action should be. Remember – be very careful and cautious because the war is the toughest when we fight with ourselves!