Five Decisions That Drive Rather Than Curb Addiction
The path into addiction always starts with a “substance use” decision. Whether it is to medicate away the pain, fit in with the crowd, experience euphoria or to drown out emotional discomfort, there is an element of risk associated with consuming any potentially addictive substance. For some unfortunate few, a prescribing physician, friend or even a stranger may create a condition for them that is conducive to drug use. The mechanism, however, that leads to addiction is repeated consumption.
Neuroeconomics which explores decision making in humans believes they may have identified the cognitive processes that motivate drug use. As Dr. Alain Dagher from McGill University and his colleagues suggest, abnormal interactions between decision-making regions of the brain could underlie addiction. According to their research, decisions that drive drug use has to do with the value people place on immediate rewards (feeling good) over the delayed benefits of health and well-being. In other words, the decisions people make can determine whether or not they fall prey to a substance abuse lifestyle.
The five most common decisions that people make that drive addiction are to…
1. Take drugs or drink despite some awareness of adverse consequences.
Most people who make the initial decision to drink or use drugs are either deliberately ignoring or ignorant of the “rewarding” and “reinforcing” components of mind-altering substances. Afterwards, the euphoria, waves of relaxation, sudden freedom from pain or loss of inhibitions provided by drugs and alcohol become the lures that, despite the risks; reinforces the decision to use drugs again and again. Some neuroscientists attribute the decision that leads to habituated drug use to these rewarding and reinforcing factors.
The “reward” factor create the perception that drugs or alcohol is positive because it is pleasurable and desirable. Whether erroneous or not, this perception increases or “reinforce” the likelihood that some people will want to duplicate the drug or alcohol use experience. New research also shows that the drug use experience can be envisioned in specific regions of the brain. If the perceived pleasure outweighs any potential adverse consequence by the value determination mechanism of the brain, it can override rational thinking and motivate the decision to use drugs again.
2. Consume more drugs or alcohol than intended.
Using more drugs or alcohol than intended is an evolutionary effect of repetitious consumption. The physiological and psychological impact of drugs and alcohol set-up the body for greater tolerance to these substances. Tolerance describes the diminishing effects of a drug that is repeatedly used. Higher tolerance levels can lead to substance abuse behavior which is the forerunner of dependence and addiction.
Acting on the decision to drink or consume more drugs than intended is a telling sign that tolerance levels are increasing. It also introduces the user to the tolerance development phase of addiction. This condition is typically overlooked by those who engage in recreational drug use or by people who take prescription drugs to mitigate pain. Depending on the substance of abuse or the person’s predisposition to addiction, tolerance levels can develop quickly over a short period of time. However, if this warning sign is heeded at this point, addiction can be and is often averted.
3. Ignore the symptoms of dependence.
Chronic drug use creates a physical condition overtime in which the body adapts to the presence of a drug. Dependence is usually evidenced by specific symptoms such as cravings and discomfort when doses are missed or drug use is deliberately halted. Most people recognize that they have become dependent on a drug or alcohol because they experience a physical or psychological reaction to its absence in the body. Choosing to ignore the symptoms of dependence rather than seek treatment is a decision to allow the slide into addiction to continue.
4. Hide or be secretive about drug or alcohol abuse.
Once an individual recognizes that they are dependent on drugs or alcohol, the typical reaction is to hide it from family, friends, and co-workers. It is not uncommon for people with a substance dependence who find they can no longer support their drug habit to steal or seek out illegal sources rather than come clean about their dependence. These actions, however, produce feelings of shame which is the mechanism that drives secrecy. Ultimately, the decision to hide rather than admit to having a substance abuse problem help to perpetuate patterns of behavior that lead to addiction.
5. Self-treat rather than seek professional help.
The decision to overcome addiction through the do-it-yourself (DIY) process is one of the most impactful decisions that an addicted person can make. Due to the complexities of addiction, the DIY self-treatment approach has the potential to be deadly. Whether the individual decides to quit “cold-turkey” or use some form of detoxification remedy, unpredictable withdrawal symptoms can escalate quickly into conditions such as excessive cravings that can cause a dangerous relapse, suicide attempt, seizures, cardiac arrest, coma or a stroke. In the event of a medical crisis, most people engaging in self-treat recovery care would not have the medical expertise or access to immediate medical attention necessary to mitigate these conditions. As a result, anyone with a serious dependency or addiction to drugs or alcohol should carefully reconsider the decision to self-treat.
We at Ebb Tide Treatment Centers believe alcoholics and addicts can and do recover. Recovering from active addiction does not have to be a long, painful process. With the help of Ebb Tide’s caring and experienced staff, you and your loved ones will learn, and take proven steps necessary to achieve success by maintaining lasting sobriety. The goal of Ebb Tide Treatment Centers is to restore lives and families. With our help, you can regain control of your life from addiction and start living happily again. Your new life is just a phone call away. Call us today at 561-508-8330 or visit us at West Palm Beach Addiction Treatment Center