Addiction is a condition which results when a person ingests a substance (such as nicotine, cocaine, alcohol) or engages in an activity (such as sex, gambling, and/or shopping) excessively to a point that it starts to create problems in their life.
These activities can at first be very pleasurable but continuous compulsive indulgence can result in critical outcomes. The person keeps using the drugs or taking part in that activity, irrespective of knowing that this abuse can result in heaps of issues for them.
When does it turn into addiction?
A person becomes “addicted” when their habit goes out of control and they start depending on the continuous use of the substance or doing the activity to cope with daily life, psychologically.
The psychological aspect turns a habit into an addiction. The sufferer can start experiencing withdrawal symptoms if they go a day without the addictive substance or activity. They might especially feel the need to consume the substance or do the activity at times of elevated stress.
What happens to the brain when a person takes drugs?
Drugs often tend to affect the brain’s “reward circuit” which controls the body’s ability to feel pleasure and motivates them to repeat the behavior. The drugs flood the reward circuit with a chemical compound called dopamine.
When the reward circuit system is over stimulated it leads to the person experiencing intense bliss (getting “high), encouraging the person to keep up the usage.
The brain adjusts to the dopamine and eventually the cells in the reward system stop responding to the previous dosage of the drug. The person thus increases the dose.
What causes addiction?
Although sometimes the person is coerced into experimenting with drugs by their peers, however, a lot of times the drug use can be intentional or unintentional.
By unintentional it is meant that the person might be using a medicine to resolve a health issue and ends up using the drug after they have become well. Adults whose parents were/are drug addicts and who have suffered childhood trauma are much more susceptible to drug abuse. People with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression may also resort to drug abuse.
How does counseling help?
People (or the concerned people around them) who have realized that they are suffering from an addiction problem (should) go for counseling to overcome the issue.
The counselor may make use of various cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, and other such strategies to help the person get out of this dilemma.
Going to the counseling sessions would give the sufferer a clearer perspective on not only the cause of the problem but on life and how to deal with the problems it brings. Group counseling helps the person realize that they aren’t the only ones suffering from the problem but there are others too. Also, the support from the peers can accelerate the progress of getting well.
The counselor will help the patient identify the root cause because of which the person resorted to drug abuse in the first place. This could be childhood trauma, depression, anxiety, the dissolving of a long-term relation, job termination, etc. They will then help the patient set long-term goals which will help them rebuild their lives.
Using cognitive behavioral therapy, person-centered therapy, and/or group session therapy methods, counselors are successful at getting to the root of the problem. Rehab and other inpatient treatments are also available for people who are experiencing higher levels of difficulty.