what makes an addict

What Makes An Addict?

When one hears the word “addiction” the immediate thought is most likely to include “drugs”. This is only natural, as newspaper and television reports constantly refer to drug addiction in some form or another. The World Health Organisation (WHO) refers to substances like heroin where heroin centers Miami come in, as well as opium, cannabis, alcohol, amphetamines and tranquilizers when they talk about addiction, and a search on PubMed is more likely to yield results including these drugs than anything else, if only because they are the most studied means of addiction.

Certainly the WHO defines addiction as “using a substance repeatedly, despite knowing and experiencing its harmful effects”, and this is by and large true. Yet there are non-pharmaceutical addictions which can have equally harmful effects, be they social or health-related; gambling, sex and food spring to mind. It may be correct to use the term “substance-dependency” for drug use, but physical and psychological dependence are both intrinsically linked to each other and share the same biochemical patterns.

Dopamine and Addiction – What Makes Us Addicted?

There is evidence emerging that all types of addiction lead to the same changes in the brain. Certainly chemical dependence causes rewiring of the brain’s dopamine and serotonin pathways (Siegel A and Sapru HN, Essential Neuroscience, pub. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 517-520), simply because the substances taken artificially alter dopamine levels. Yet gambling has been shown to do the same, as has food. Essentially, anything that causes a “feel-good” response will cause dopamine and serotonin to be released.

So addiction ought to be defined as any substance or behaviour which leads to a dependence on dopaminergic alterations in the central nervous system; this would cover all bases with regard to drugs, food, gambling and so on. Even the mere thought of the substance or behaviour is usually enough to elicit cravings and a response; one study by Heinz et al showed that certain cues could elicit a neuronal response in alcoholics.

Heinz’s study used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) to show changes in the dopamine pathways: recovering alcoholics have fewer dopamine type 2 receptors (D2) than healthy subjects and this is closely linked to a high relapse rate. Similar changes have been shown by other groups using PET and MRI in other forms of dependence, such as food and gambling (see previous links).

Psychological Dependence and Dopamine – the Same as Physical Dependence?

What causes this change is the release of a protein known as cocaine-amphetamine-related-transcript (CART), so called because cocaine and amphetamine were the first stimulants to be implicated in its production. Busto et al have linked CART release in the hypothalamus (the region of the brain commonly linked to reward behaviour) to several drug-seeking changes in the brain, especially that of dopamine stimulation. The authors note that some genetic alterations to CART may predispose individuals to addiction.

The best treatment by far is detoxification and abstinance (sometimes with the aid of less-addictive substances), but as yet no study has shown any kind of reversal of the brain signalling pathways. In other words, an addict remains an addict for life. A sufferer has to abstain from the substances or behaviours that led to their addiction or risk relapse.

This makes food addiction all the more tragic: while it might be possible for someone to never drink another drop of alcohol or smoke another cigarette in their entire life, try telling someone who was morbidly obese to never eat again. Even with diet and exercise (and a great deal of hard work) a person who loses weight can find it all too easy to relapse and begin overeating – after all, food is readily available in the western world and we need it to survive. But the temptation will be there, and in all likelihood stronger than that for alcohol, say, or tobacco.

It is all too easy for people to pour scorn upon any addict – whether they are substance abusers, alcoholics, obese – but were it not for circumstance the roles could be so easily reversed. That addict could be anyone. It could even be you.

how to face addiction

Facing the Habit – An Addict’s Tale: Magnolia Martin Documents the Struggle of a Heroin Addict

This is not a flattering story, but one that is brutal, raw, and honest. Using interviews with friends, family, and other addicts, Martin weaves together a very rough fabric that will capture the viewer. How does a handsome, successful, young millionaire stockbroker watch his life circle the drain as his out-of-control addiction overtakes his life? Called a Kiefer Sutherland look-alike, he would seem to have everything: a high paying job, a handsome look and pleasant demeanor, citizenship in one of the world’s wealthiest nations – why would he become addicted? Once addicted, though, the drug becomes a leveling force and all users are taken down. His habit requires him to “boost” or steal due to the enormous cost of maintaining a habit that only grows worse as he becomes more resistant to the effects of the drug he craves.

Magnolia Martin Captures the Tragedy of Addiction in Her Film

Even for 50 minutes, it is difficult to witness the world of this one young heroin addict, as he turns himself into an angry, demanding, dysfunctional human being. Nodding off after shooting up or injecting the drug, Dave begins to slur his words and slowly leaves the world of feeling, functioning adults. He becomes an organism who needs a chemical to avoid pain and suffering, and that pursuit is all that matters and motivates him. This organism even harrasses his aging mother in order to steal fresh needles from her – she, a diabetic woman struggling with her own daily injections–although hers are for her very survival, rather than self-destructive. She shares early photos and memories of her handsome son and the viewer can only imagine the nightmare in which she, too, has been plunged due to his ugly habit.

Facing the Habit Puts a Very Human Face on Addiction

Profiling a controversial new treatment modality using Ibogaine, a drug from West Africa, several former addicts are interviewed for their perspective on the treatment. While not a polished film, this film appears to be deliberately spontaneous and raw, brutal in parts, in showing the reality of some of the ugly side of addiction. Perhaps most poignant of all is the final few moments of the film, when the viewer learns the fate of all those people interviewed. Magnolia Martin should be congratulated for this short documentary about an issue that extracts a huge human toil; it is an amazing short documentary about a painful topic. Most remarkable of all is that this film was ever made.

  • Oppenhunter Films
  • 50 minutes
  • Movie site
  • San Francisco Frozen Film Festival, Best Documentary Short

Scary Facts About Drugs

One of the pestering problems that the current generation faces is to get rid of drug addiction. Recent surveys have indicated that at least one in every hundred people in the world is a drug addict. That is an alarming statistic, and with more and more people becoming addicted at an alarming rate, the populations are going to be hit pretty hard.

Well, there are some scary facts that you need to know about the use of drugs;

  1. Drugs account for at least 40,000 deaths all across the globe every year, most of them pertaining to driving under influence. This number keeps on increasing by at least 2000 people every year. So, while many may argue that this is primarily due to the lapse in security arrangements and safety in automobiles, there is no doubting the fact that the use of prescription as well as illegal drugs have also led to the rise of people causing accidents.
  2. In the United States alone, at least seven out of 10 teenagers have become a victim of prescription drugs that they might have received from their friends or their relatives. It is the obvious is of procurement of prescription drugs that make it very easy to abuse in the first place. At least 64% of the teenagers that have started using prescription drugs have found it through the medicine cabinet of their parents or through their friends. Whatever the means of procurement, there is no denying the fact that prescription drugs can cause long lasting damage to the teenagers.
  3. Over 100,000 people are hospitalized every year due to overdosing in drugs. Out of these 100,000, at least 10,000 people are dead before they can even arrive in the hospital. According to the latest reports, most of them die due to overdosing on painkillers. There are also a percentage of people that end up taking opioid painkillers along with alcohol in order to accelerate the process of death.
  4. Drugs can lead to financial ruin within five years of rampant use. There are many established households that are now looking at a bottomless pit of debt, primarily due to fuel in their own drug habits with income that was normally kept for a rainy day. Now, they do not have any money to fall back on, and after failing on payments, they had to let go of all their movable and immovable properties. Financial ruin is certain for people that undertake drug abuse.
  5. Prescription drugs are almost always one of the easiest methods for drug procurement in rural parts of the globe. Since prescriptions can be easily procured from the pharmacy, most of the rural towns have the option of procuring such medications and overdosing on them. With the advent of the Internet and online websites that double up as pharmacies, this process has become very easy. The people can now get their drugs home delivered, and in most countries, it has become a legal source of drug procurement.

Drugs are a huge threat to our society and there isn’t a ton we can do about it, the best we can do is to educate our children and show them the truth about drugs. Also we must pressure our lawmakers to make the right choices and fight the drugs!