Overcoming Addiction: Understanding the Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

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Addiction is a chronic brain disease that causes drug-seeking behavior, and it can be fatal. Say’s Dr Louis Hampers, addiction is an umbrella term used to describe a set of behaviors related to drug abuse and the need for certain substances in order to function normally. In recent years, there has been more focus on finding better ways to treat addiction and less stigma surrounding it.

What Is Addiction?

Addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It affects neurotransmitters in the brain, which are chemicals that send signals to other brain cells. These include dopamine (the “reward” chemical), serotonin (the “feel good” chemical) and norepinephrine (the “stress” chemical).

Addiction hijacks these natural reward pathways in your brain by flooding them with an abundance of dopamine when you use drugs or alcohol. This surge of dopamine produces feelings of pleasure and reward but also causes changes in your brain chemistry over time–changes that make it harder for you to stop using drugs even when you know they’re bad for you or interfere with daily life activities such as schoolwork or work responsibilities

Causes of Addiction

Addiction is a complex disease that can be caused by a combination of factors. Some people are genetically predisposed to addiction, meaning they have genes that make them more likely to develop an addiction than others. Environmental factors such as peer pressure and stress may also contribute to the development of an addictive behavior or substance abuse problem. Additionally, some medications used to treat pain and mental illnesses can cause dependence if they are taken for long periods of time without medical supervision.

The brain chemical dopamine plays an important role in regulating moods and emotions. When someone uses drugs or alcohol, it increases dopamine production in the brain’s pleasure centers; this leads people who suffer from addiction to seek out the same experience again and again because it makes them feel good temporarily (at least until withdrawal sets in).

Symptoms of Addiction

  • Physical symptoms:

o Loss of appetite, weight loss and/or weight gain.

o Changes in sleeping patterns, such as insomnia or excessive sleeping.

o Fatigue or lack of energy.

Treatment Options for Addiction

Treatment options for addiction are many and varied. The best treatment option is the one that works for you, but some common treatment options include:

  • Outpatient treatment (also called “residential outpatient”)
  • Inpatient treatment (sometimes called “intensive outpatient”)
  • Residential or therapeutic communities (including 12-step programs)


Overcoming addiction is a difficult process, but it is possible. By understanding the causes, symptoms and treatment options of addiction, you can better prepare yourself for recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse issues, we encourage you to seek help today by calling our 24-hour hotline at (800) 669-7050.

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