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health as it happens

The beginning of addiction and the cycle that follows - KTXS

by SBG

Saturday, May 1st 2021

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Addiction refers to the uncontrollable desire to have something or engage in a certain behavior. Anyone can become addicted to anything, even at a young age. To those who don't fully understand or have never struggled with addiction, it might seem easy to quit something, especially if it's harmful to one's health. In fact, drugs, alcohol, gambling, and sex are some of the most common addictions someone might develop, and all of them can lead a person on a dangerous journey toward disaster.

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People in the Big Country suffer from many different types of addiction. Join KTXS as we battle the silence by educating, connecting and healing our communities. Together, we can change this epidemic. To combat addiction, we must shine a light on it.

Several factors can make a person more susceptible to developing an addiction and unable to overcome one once it takes root. The cycle develops slowly and then escalates quickly as a person's brain is consumed by the desire to get more and more of the addictive substance or behavior.

Abilene High graduate trying to win the fight against addiction after prison{p}{/p}

Step 1: Tempted by the addiction

Advertisements bombard audiences every day, on television, radio, billboards, and the internet. And remember, anyone can become addicted to anything. That means coffee, collecting trading cards, video games, things that seem perfectly harmless on the surface. The nature vs. nurture debate is strong in the first step of the addiction cycle because some people can be tempted and never engage, while others won't feel tempted at all. However, genetics and environment can independently or cooperatively increase the chances of someone developing an addiction in their lives.

Step 2: Engage in the temptation

Simply trying a cigarette or playing a game of chance doesn't always lead to addiction. The likelihood of addiction will increase depending on genetic and environmental factors, and it is encouraged by the dopamine rush that comes with many addictive behaviors and substances. Beating a level in a video game, pulling a rare card from a pack, or sipping a cup of hot coffee in the morning can lead to addiction just as much as smoking a cigarette, drinking a beer, or playing cards in a casino. That's because dopamine reinforces a person to continue doing what they just did, but the problem is that the initial dopamine rush is usually the highest. After that, the human body adapts to the dopamine levels it felt during the first experience, which means it will take more of the behavior or substance to achieve the same feeling again.

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Step 3: Develop a dependency

When a behavior or substance starts taking priority over people, responsibilities, and common sense, an addiction has started to form. A hallmark of addiction is dependency, a condition in which the body can't resist something or go without it for too long. Sometimes, a person will experience withdrawal symptoms because their body craves the substance to which they are addicted. In other cases, a person will remain at the mercy of their addiction, even if they realize their relationships are failing, their finances are suffering, and their health is waning. This happens because addiction literally rewires the brain to approve of harmful behaviors and substances instead of positive alternatives.

Step 4: Refuse alternatives

Some people can abuse drugs and alcohol while remaining free from addiction. This is because they can act irresponsibly but avoid the uncontrollable urges and withdrawal symptoms that characterize addiction. An addicted person will not only feel like they can't live without a substance or behavior, but they will also continually choose whatever they are addicted to instead of healthier alternatives. Some examples would be selecting alcohol over soda, gambling over a board game with no risk involved, or caffeinated coffee over a decaffeinated beverage.

Step 5: Repeat the cycle

Imagine being in a hole without any option for escape. You see the light at the top, but you can't quite grasp a hold strong enough to pull yourself to freedom. That is addiction in a nutshell. In severe cases, an addicted person may not even realize they are stuck, meaning they have no desire to escape their current situation. Whether a person feels free or not, addiction often cannot be overcome alone because it is powerful enough to override the rational parts of the brain that beckon for recovery.