The word “addiction” is derived from a Latin term for “enslaved by” or “bound to.” Addiction creates a powerful influence on the brain that affects you in three different and distinct ways: craving of a substance, loss of control over its use, and continuing involvement with it despite consequences. Before researching Addiction’s effect on the brain, people thought that suffering from addiction meant you were flawed or lacked the willpower to quit. However, researchers later figured out that addiction actually stems from a release of dopamine from the nucleus that is commonly misinterpreted by the body as a source of pleasure. The brain registers all pleasures in the same way, whether they be recreationally used drugs or your favorite food. It causes a release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the nucleus, a cluster of nerve cells under the cerebral cortex. Dopamine release in the nucleus is so consistently tied with pleasure that neuroscientists refer to the region as the brain’s pleasure center. So escaping addiction requires willpower, yes, but also requires a long so process of therapy and quitting programs. Researchers found that susceptibility to addiction is hereditary. But behavior plays a role when it comes to forming a habit. When your substance abuse continues, you may start to build up a tolerance. As an attempt to try and release more dopamine to the nucleus, often you are encouraged to use more of your addicted substance which is worse for you in most cases.

Nicotine Addiction stems from tobacco products and is one of the most common sources of addiction, especially in teens sadly. Consumption of nicotine causes mood-altering effects that appear to be pleasing but aren’t. Conversely when you try and stop you may suffer from withdrawal symptoms that can bring anxiety and constant irritability. Some of the risk factors of participating in the use of nicotine are genetic pass down, obtaining some sort of cancer, and advancing to worse substance abuse. Also lung cancer, heart and circulatory problems, eye problems, infertility or pregnancy complications, and a weakened immune system (more susceptible to colds, the flu, and other illnesses).

There are six phases of the addiction cycle. First is the initial use where the person is exposed to the addictive substance for the first time. The next step of the cycle is abuse which includes repeated use of the substance that isn’t necessarily healthy for you. Examples of abuse include binge drinking or regularly using cocaine. Substance abuse is usually classified as using the substance to obtain a euphoric response or a “high” rather than the treatment and true purpose of the substance. The next step in the cycle is developing a tolerance which happens when you expose yourself to a substance so much that your brain has changed your response to it. When this happens, you might not get the same mental or physical result and unfortunately, this encourages people to increase doses and the frequency consumed. Tolerance leads to dependency. This is the hardest part of the cycle to break because the body will actually seem dependent on the substance. And before you know it you’ve arrived at the addiction stage of the cycle where you’ve used way more of the substance than you originally planned, you can’t stop partaking, you’re constantly craving, and your time and money is being wasted on this substance while your relationships with family and friends may be crumbling. Lastly, relapse is where you lose control of your addiction and where it is nearly impossible to escape the addiction cycle.


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