Why do people become addicted?
It can often seem mystifying as to why or how other people can become addicted to substances such as alcohol or drugs; or how a person can find themselves engaging in addictive behaviors like sex or gambling. They may mistakenly believe that individuals suffering from addiction lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop their harmful behaviors simply by choosing to. In reality, addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will. Addiction changes the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to.
According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, approximately 40 million Americans ages 12 and older—or more than 1 in 7 people—abuse or are addicted to nicotine, alcohol or other drugs. This is more than the number of Americans with heart conditions (27 million), diabetes (26 million) or cancer (19 million).
Addiction is more common than most people realize. Unfortunately, many people do not seek the treatment they need.
What happens to the brain of an addict?
Addictive behaviors (gambling, sex, etc) and substances (ex. alcohol, drugs) affect the brain's "reward circuit" by flooding it with the chemical messenger dopamine. This reward system controls the body's ability to feel pleasure and motivates a person to repeat behaviors needed to thrive, such as eating and spending time with loved ones. This overstimulation of the reward circuit causes the intensely pleasurable "high" that can lead people to engage in their addiction again and again.
As a person continues to remain involved with their addiction, the brain adjusts to the excess dopamine by making less of it and/or reducing the ability of cells in the reward circuit to respond to it. This reduces the high that the person feels compared to the high they first felt before their addiction worsened —an effect known as tolerance. They begin utilizing their addiction of choice more and more, trying to achieve the same dopamine high. It can also cause them to get less pleasure from other things they once enjoyed, like food or social activities.
Long-term use also causes changes in other brain chemical systems and circuits as well, affecting functions that include:
Despite being aware of harmful outcomes, many people suffering from addiction continue to participate in these dangerous behaviors, which is the nature of addiction.
Addiction Treatment that Works
At The Meadows, we believe trauma underlies nearly all conditions. Trauma, whether related to addiction, family-of-origin issues or abuse, can reverberate through the many facets of our lives, follow us into adulthood and inhibit us from living in the present.
We believe that successful treatment combines different powerful and unique methodologies that enable support, discovery, and healing.
The Meadows’ highly trained staff and innovative therapeutic techniques have made it America’s leading treatment center for addiction and developmental trauma. For more than 40 years, The Meadows has helped over 45,000 people find healing and recovery from a range of addictions and co-occurring disorders. Our therapists, psychiatrists, and counselors look to the underlying issues to treat the cause of the problem, bringing lifelong learning and healing to each and every patient.
At The Meadows, our highly individualized treatment encompasses The Meadows Model to address emotional trauma and addiction with a multi-disciplinary emphasis. In addition to a medical integration model, our staff includes 24-hour nursing, on-site physicians, and a full-time Chief of Psychiatry. This talented team of professionals specializes in trauma resolution using a variety of cutting-edge therapeutic modalities.
The Meadows’ innovative Brain Center offers patients neurofeedback and other integrative equipment to aid in grounding and brain regulation. Patients have access to the latest and most efficient technology promoting “self-regulation” skills that can enhance and expedite the recovery process.
Recover from Your Addiction
We know that even though some people may suffer from the same mental health concerns, they each will have their own unique story and past history. This means that a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment will not work. At The Meadows, we create an individualized treatment plan for you based on your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs to help you achieve long-lasting recovery.