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What Is the Scientific Explanation of Addiction?

October 3, 2017 - - 0 Comments

Scientific Explanation of AddictionIt is now widely accepted that addiction is a chronic disease that affects the brain and is characterized by a compulsion to take drugs or use alcohol despite the harmful consequences. Addiction is viewed as a brain disease as drugs and alcohol both have brain-altering effects, changing the way neurotransmitters function. Challenges to the brain can be long lasting, particularly after prolonged abuse of drugs and alcohol and can lead to manifesting extremely self-destructive and antisocial behaviors.

Why Is it Important to Know the Science Behind Addiction?

The horrifying fact that more than 90,000 Americans die each year as a direct consequence of addiction is sufficient to find the underlying causes and effects of the disease. The most important thing is to distinguish between drug abuse and addiction itself as although one can lead to another, they require different levels of drug and alcohol treatment.  Drug or alcohol abuse is when someone is using drugs that are either illegal or have been obtained illegally or drinking heavily. Addiction is usually caused as a result of a spiral from drug or alcohol abuse into an inability to control the compulsion to use and is characterized by negative behaviors and deterioration in general health.

Is there a difference between physical dependence and addiction?

There is a wealth of difference between a physical dependence on a substance or alcohol and full-blown addiction. Physical dependence is when the body has become used to regular use of a drug or drink to the extent that there are physical symptoms of withdrawal if there is abstinence. Many people hooked on caffeine will experience severe headaches very soon after they stop drinking coffee because their bodies crave its chemical stimulus. Physical dependence is a physiological issue whereas addiction is much more deep-rooted and the compulsion to use is driven by many different variables.

How do drugs work in the brain to produce pleasure?

Almost every addictive drug has a direct or indirect effect on the brain’s neurotransmitters by flooding them with dopamine. The neurotransmitters that regulate emotion, cognition, and feelings of pleasure are over-stimulated by the sudden presence of dopamine and a euphoric effect is produced that leads people to want to repeat the experience by taking the drugs again repetitively.

Is Addiction a Voluntary Behavior?

Although the initial decision to take drugs or use alcohol inappropriately was voluntary, addiction occurs when control has been lost and the disease has taken over. The further someone falls into addictive behavior, the more their self-control becomes impaired making it tougher to face the prospect of attending a drug and alcohol treatment program.

According to brain-imaging studies, people with addiction issues display physical changes in areas of the brain that are important for decision-making, learning, behavior control, memory, and judgment. The scientific explanation is that because of the mind-altering effects of drugs and alcohol, the compulsive and self-destructive behaviors of addiction continues and worsens.

Is Drug and Alcohol Treatment Successful?

In short, the answer is yes, addiction is a disease that can be managed and treated effectively for a full life in recovery. Medical research shows that a combination of behavioral therapy with medications as appropriate for each case is the best way to deliver effective results from drug and alcohol rehab.

Does Relapse Mean a Drug and Alcohol Treatment Program Has Failed?

Addiction is one of the most chronic diseases to treat and manage and so it’s natural to expect that relapse is not just a possibility but likelihood. However, in accepting the challenge of seeking drug and alcohol rehab it is essential for an individual to understand their vulnerabilities as a recovering addict returning to their daily lives after treatment.  

If a relapse occurs, the most important thing is to tell someone else as soon as possible as that ensures a conscious choice is made to prevent relapse causing a negative spiral back into old behaviors. Understanding the triggers for relapse and the specific stressors a person has to deal with on a daily basis is useful in preparing a defense strategy against relapse.  Drug and alcohol rehab centers also provide the foundations on which a support network can be built to protect a recovering addict against the triggers of relapse.


Although there are scientific reasons behind the cause and effects of addiction, the decision to combat the disease can be made consciously and voluntarily. In fact, without this degree of acceptance in someone with addiction issues, successful drug and alcohol rehab is blocked until they fully appreciate they have a medical condition requiring urgent treatment. Drug and alcohol rehab centers provide the perfect environment where those with addiction issues can open themselves up to help and support somewhere they won’t be judged harshly or criticized for weakness. Understanding addiction for both the sufferer and those close to them is essential for a healthy future in recovery.

His and Her Houses offers industry leading Addiction treatment programs. We were founded in 1994 and we base our programs on five key principles: commitment, honesty, integrity, respect, and service. These five principles guide us in all that we do and all the care we provide. Contact us today to see how we can help you or your love one at (888) 376-7268.

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