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Addiction: What is it?

Addiction is the presence of an activity or substance that is repeatedly performed or ingested that causes substantial harm and other negative consequences to someone’s life. The misuse of these things can lead to having a damaging impact on individuals, families and communities. More often than not, someone starts taking up an addiction because it gives them pleasure. It may cause problems within their lives, but the release of happy chemicals within their brain keeps them from stopping. That’s why when we see ourselves or someone doing something that’s causing them harm, it can be difficult to understand why it continues to happen. 

An addictive activity can be something like shopping, working, gambling, and sex. Substances that are addictive can be things such as smoking vapes or cigarettes (Nicotine), prescription drugs (this can be anything such as Benzodiazepines to even cough medicine or Panadol) or illicit drugs (such as Marijuana, MDMA, Heroin or Ice), and alcohol. 

What Causes Addiction?

In today’s clinical practice, psychologists and behavioral therapists have a better understanding of what causes addiction and how to recover from it than they did fifty years ago. There is not one underlying cause of addiction, it can happen because of a myriad of reasons like disease, lifestyle, childhood trauma, family history and socioeconomic factors which are all taken into account when discussing addiction with support of professional help. 

It’s important when talking about addiction to understand the chemicals that are produced by the brain. Dopamine is a happy chemical we produce when something is pleasurable and rewarding. Interestingly, the effect of dopamine is that it creates a memory of experience which in turn compels us to seek out the experience again. When we do activity-based addictions like sex or shopping we tend to produce a small amount of dopamine. However, when we start to add in substances like MDMA or cocaine, the brain will be forced to release massive amounts of dopamine making the experience longer and more pleasurable. However, once we come up, we must come down and people usually end up feeling way more horrible within hours or days of doing illicit drugs, so the cycle starts because we craving that rush of dopamine.


People and Services You Can Access Help With:

Helplines & Hotlines:

(Depression & Anxiety ) Lifeline – 13 11 14

(Cigarettes & Smoking ) QuitLine – 13 78 48

National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline – 1800 250 015

Family Drug Support – 1300 368 186

Kids Help Line – 1800 55 1800