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The repeated use of any substance or any repetitive behaviors despite clear evidence of increased morbidity due to its long term use is known as addiction. It is a disorder considered to be protracted in its course usually precipitated by a combination of genetic, biological, pharmacological and social factors.

Addiction Stop addiction

Addiction to drugs or any dependence to a particular substance such as alcohol or chemical means that the user reach to a point where he or she is left with no other effective choice but to compulsively continue the use of these psychoactive drugs despite of its harmful effects. There are actually two components of dependency namely, physical and psychological dependency. Physical dependency means that due to the habitual use of these drugs, the user’s body has already been accustomed to the drugs’ effects. Therefore, the moment the individual stops using the drug, withdrawal symptoms emerge that can sometimes be so bad prompting him or her to continue using the drug again. To resume using the drug is usually not by their own free will but a need for them to actually feel being normal again. On the other hand, psychological dependence occurs when the person’s mind has become reliant emotionally on the effects of the illicit drug use. The most common effects include a pleasant feeling and pain relief. In a psychologically dependent person, discontinuing the drug which has been used habitually will bring about intense cravings sometimes reaching to a point wherein the person does not feel capable of functioning well and more so, this is aggravated by stress. An individual may have physical or psychological dependence or both at the same time.

There are two scientific views which explain the addiction process. The first view is the traditional scientific explanation which is the biological basis for drug addiction. This explanation has long been accepted in the medical field. In this theory, the addiction process is believed to be due to alteration in the chemical behavior of the brain temporarily because the psychoactive substances like the alcohol, drugs and tobacco crosses the blood-brain barrier when used habitually. The exact part of the brain where these neurochemical changes happen is within the mesolimbic-dopaminergic system.

The second scientific view which is the contemporary one explains that the hypothalamus is the one creating peptides in the mind that exceed the power of externally applied chemicals such as alcohol, nicotine etc. during its habitual use. Further positive reinforcement occurs when endorphins which are chemicals in the brain are continually produced and released when an addict like or example, gamblers satisfies their craving.

The mechanisms on how to activate the mesolimbic-dopamine system vary depending on what chemical substances are used by the different drug classes. For example, the depressants (e.g. alcohol and benzodiazepines) act by increasing the concentrations of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Narcotics (e.g. morphine and methadone) are addictive as well by mimicking the endogenous endorphins (effects similar to dopamine) or by counteracting and eventually disabling the neurons that normally inhibit dopamine release. These substances are called "downers" because it provides relaxation and relief of pain.

On the other hand, the stimulants group such as amphetamines, nicotine and cocaine directly stimulates the release of dopamine, or blocks its absorption. These substances are called "uppers" because it causes increase alertness and energizes the individual.

Many other prescription or over-the-counter drugs can also become addictive if used for a prolonged period of time such as the steroids. Hence, in taking prescribed drugs, always follow what your doctor has instructed to avoid adverse drug reactions. Methods of recovery from addiction to drugs differ and this is due to the following important factors to consider: the types of drugs involved; amount of drugs used; duration of the drug addiction; medical complications and the social needs of the individual. There are many methods of recovery suggested for addicted persons and support programs for the family of the addicted person as well. One of which is the 12 Step recovery programs, the most common and well-known method that includes the Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Other programs are: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Rational-Emotive Therapy or other types of psychological behavior modification methods. For those with serious addiction problems, enrollment in a residential treatment program in a substance-abuse rehabilitation centers may help particularly to isolate the patient from drugs and to prevent continuous interactions with other drug users and drug dealers. In these rehabilitation centers the use of methadone, a less addictive substance is advocated then they gradually tapers it to avoid withdrawal symptoms especially for chronic alcoholics. A combination of individual counseling and group counseling is also offered by some outpatient clinics for those with less serious addictive problems. A multidisciplinary team composed of family medicine doctors or psychiatrists will assist with the prescriptions and explains the side effects of the addiction. For those who are not comfortable in taking drugs for detoxification of substance that is abused, another alternative way is through acupuncture detoxification that will help control the withdrawal symptoms.

Determining the best recovery program for an addicted person depends on the following: personality type; type of drugs the person is addicted to; concept of spirituality or religion, mental or physical illness, and the availability, accessibility and affordability of the programs locally. It has been established though that abstinence from addictive substances is still widely accepted as the most “successful" outcome among all suggested programs of recovery.

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