How People Become Addicted

October 30, 2009


Why do people become addicted? What is the fundamental mechanism? Of course, this question has been answered to varying degrees and in varying ways. Whether you consider the physical aspects of addiction where changes occur in the brain, or the psychological mechanism that triggers an addiction many theories already exist.

This article is strictly my opinion. It is my personal attempt to understand addiction and I don’t claim to have any scientific backing for my model of addiction. Nor do I seek any. I’m merely trying to understand addiction in terms that make sense to me personally. If this is useful to you in some way, then so much the better.

Addiction can be a powerful force in our lives. I hold that addiction occurs with each of us to varying degrees. Drug and alcohol addictions are the most obvious to us because their destructive effects are very evident. But what about those addictions that are not so obvious. Do you have a favorite food? A favorite song? Why do we choose one thing over another? Why do people choose differently?

On a purely physical realm it appears that our brains become stimulated in a certain way that we enjoy and therefore we are left with a memory that is pleasurably associated with a certain stimulus such as a sound or a taste or a sensation. Could this be the basis for addiction?

Since we are beings with an organic component, this makes complete sense. Once an impression is made on us it is either postivive or negative and we have a ‘feeling’ that goes with that. Being creatures that enjoy pleasure over pain we naturally seek to relive positive experiences and avoid negative ones.

Therefore, if we had an experience that triggered a negative feeling, such as the taste of garlic, then we may forever hate the taste of garlic. Yet, someone else’s early experience or experiences with garlic may have been quite pleasurable. Therefore, they actually enjoy the taste and smell of garlic even to the point that they always use it or cook with it.

Being similar in our organic components, how can such divergent reactions occur?
The only differential seems to be the original experience itself and how we reacted to it. That experience and reaction creates a record in our brains. This must be how two different brains can have such different reactions to the same substance or experience.

Then are we at the mercy of our first experience in regards to any particular stimuli?
Yes, if we don’t do anything about it. However, if we really exert our will, we should be able to change our reaction to virtually anything.

Therefore, through exertion of willpower an addiction, any addiction, should be defeatable. Of course, things are not necessarily that simple in the real world. But in principle and in my opinion, it seems to be this way.

Otherwise, we would simply be robots at the mercy of these addictions that exist to varying degrees. I think most people would agree that is not the case. Also, it would contradict the gift of freewill that I believe we all have been granted. There are some things that we don’t get to choose in this life yet there are many things that we may exert our personal choice over. I believe that addiction is one of those things we can choose not to have. Maybe it takes hard work to beat an addiction but I think we do have an option in this regard.

If I’m correct, then the most important component to beating an addiction is the willingness to do so, coupled by the intensity of the desire to beat the addiction. It seems certain that the person must be willing at some level to be rid of an addiction in order for that freedom to occur.

Author:  David S.

*If you have or think you might have a drug, alcohol or other dangerous addiction, you should seek the help of a qualified physician and get proper treatment as soon as possible.

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