The Science of Addiction

Sylvester Torsman
Sylvester Torsman

‌‌He keeps repeating the folly. He is being stigmatized by colleagues at work. Now it feels more like a second nature. At first he only wanted to relieve himself and forget the pain of having lost a loved one. Now he's sinked in an endless bottom of intoxication. He's addicted to alcohol and it seems he's done for, because he has lost all respect in society. What's his way back? This article highlights what is termed by "addiction", its effects and countermeasures against it.

So what's an addiction?‌‌

Addiction is the " out of control" or irresistible need for and use of a habit-forming substance. It has also been used more broadly to refer to the compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be physically, psychologically, or socially harmful.‌‌In simple terms, it is an urge to do something that is difficult to control or quit, thus a mental disorder and as such usually associated with stigma. Addicts are found with irregularities in their behavior.

What's behind addiction and how does it start?‌‌

Usually the first time use happens without a detailed plan. A big trigger for spontaneously abusing drugs is usually a party setting. Picture this. You probably showed up for the party not expecting someone with a bag of weed show up. You were probably expecting alcohol as the main event, yet here lies a friend or his invited guest holding a bad of weed. Not wanting to have that feeling of being left out, you decide to try it too.

They are laying out lines of the thin powder on the counter, then someone picks up a paper note and gathers it up. The substance is gradually finishing. Your friend now hands the bill to you. And gradually you ingest it in, snorting it in, and though you feel like everything is slowing down around you, someway somehow, you continue the act until you feel so high, everything seems possible. Isn't this what usually happens? Now this is to say for drugs. Yet several other things could end in addiction, for instance, addiction to food, sweets, and X-rated movies. All these have a peculiar way they have a toll on the brain. In the end, everything happens in the brain.‌‌The human brain has been modeled to reward us when we do something pleasurable. For instance, when we eat, exercising and exhibit other behaviors that are directly linked to our survival, it triggers the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine.

‌‌When a substance is being abused, be it drugs or any other thing, lots of dopamine is released from the brain. Through this process, the brain is told that this is a behavior that should be remembered and repeated.‌‌This not only makes us feel good, but it encourages us to keep doing what we’re doing. It teaches our brains to repeat the behavior.‌‌Everyone who uses substances may not become addicted by this process, but if they are already at risk, this is where the cycle of addiction begins. That’s because, according to the National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “large surges of dopamine ‘instruct’ the brain to seek drugs at the expense of other healthier goals and activities.”‌‌Once the brain has been rewired by drug or substance use, it requires more and more of the substance just to function at a baseline level. Now when they become addicted, they’re not using drugs to feel good — they’re using drugs to feel normal.

Effects of an Addiction or an Addicted brain

‌‌The most common is changes in their behavior.‌‌Brain imaging studies from people with substance use disorders displays changes in areas of the brain that are necessary for judgment, learning and memory, decision making and behavior control.‌‌A promising student might see his grades slip. A bubbly social person might suddenly have trouble waking up from bed. A trustworthy sibling might begin to steal or tell lies. Such behavior adaptations are linked to a changing brain.‌‌Addiction also lead to cravings. A craving can be constant, distasteful and painful and very distracting. The withdrawal from this can be very tedious and painstaking. For an addicted person, responding to cravings and avoiding withdrawal become their most paramount needs.

Fixing an addicted brain‌‌

In treating addiction, it isn't one size fits all. Not all treatments work the same for everyone as there are peculiar treatments based on the addict's needs and also as per what type of addiction it is.‌‌The following are some of the most commonly practised addiction treatments that have set patients on a successful path to recovery.


‌‌This is a valuable treatment tool because it can be used for many different types of addiction and not limited to food addiction, alcohol addiction, and prescription drug addiction. Not only can therapy help you identify your unhealthy behavioral patterns, but it can also help you learn to recognize triggers and develop skills to cope. There are types of therapy. They include;

‌‌a. Cognitive Behavioral therapy: This helps people realize and change ways of thinking that are associated with substance use.

‌‌b. Multi-dimensional family therapy: This is designed to help improve family function around an adolescent or teen with a substance-related disorder.


Detoxification is commonly the first step in treatment. This involves flushing out a substance from the body and limiting withdrawal reactions.‌‌Detox permits the body to rid itself of addictive substances in a safe environment. Detox is very beneficial because sometimes substance withdrawal, in other words preventing use of substance by addict could result in life threatening physical symptoms like sleeping difficulties, tremors, excessive vomiting, restlessness, muscle pain, etc.

Medication Treatment‌‌

Medication, when combined with behavioral therapies can play an important role in recovery. There are certain medications that can assist in mitigating cravings, decrease the addictive behaviors and improve mood. Lofexidine, has been recently approved by the FDA to help in reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms for opioid addiction. Alcohol addiction can be curtailed by acamprosate and Naltexone. Medication will vary based on the addiction substance.


‌‌Any substance can be addictive. It depends on how frequent it is being consumed. Some people are addicted to very unusual things like social media, exercise, food, gambling among several others and there is the usual drug addiction and pornography addiction, which is very rampant among the youth nowadays. All in all, addictions go a long way in taking our freedom from our hands and leaves us subject to our cravings. Also an addicted brain is mediocre, lacks focus and usually confused. Note that your mind is your creativity box. Use it to the best of it's ability.