Understanding, a Path to Addiction-Free Living

Twenty-one million Americans are addicted, and of these, only 10% get treatment.  Addiction is responsible for many accidents, illnesses, and premature deaths each year. Road accidents, cancer, bronchial pneumonia, coronary heart disease, hepatitis, cirrhosis are just a few of its tentacles. 

Addictions are a global concern because they affect dimensions specific to the human psyche and have nothing to do with pathologies, such as searching for well-being, pleasure, or social contact.

Take the example of alcohol, which is the most common and accepted substance. Even moderate consumption represents a risk. It is often experienced positively by the individual and by the group. 

For most people, there won’t be any significant negative consequences. But then some people “switch” and adopt behaviors or consumption that endanger their physical, mental and social health.

The reward circuits

Addictive behaviors stimulate areas in the brain that psychiatrists call the “reward circuit.” One of the hypotheses is that the addiction is precisely based on a disruption of the reward circuit. In this circuit, neurotransmission is constantly carried out thanks to a neurotransmitter called “dopamine.” 

Addictive behavior with or without a product will dramatically increase dopaminergic transmission.

This means if a person consumes alcohol (for example), it increases the feeling of well-being conveyed by dopamine (among other transmitters). The secretion of dopamine is increased 200 times (it is even stronger after the consumption of cocaine). Dopamine will then attach itself to the receptor neurons and cause a new signal of well-being. 

Thus, the signal is amplified, and the brain very quickly “learns” to “recognize” alcohol as a very positive stimulus. When dopamine levels are permanently increased, receptor neurons “defend themselves” by reducing the number of receptors. But since the brain is already used to the exaggerated signals, this drop in the number of receptors is equivalent to a reward deficit.

 In short, the person ends up developing an increasingly greater need for positive stimulation (that is to say in our example of alcohol consumption) to compensate for the increasingly large drop in receptors. We come to addictive behavior.

When to talk about it?

If you are the one consuming

If you’re the one using a drug, admitting you need help with your addiction is the first step to addiction-free living. To do this, you can ask yourself this simple question: do I still have the freedom to do without this product? 

Do I have the freedom not to sniff cocaine? If so, you are probably not addicted. On the other hand, if you feel that your answer tilts towards a “no,” you’ll need to grasp nettles. 

No one can force you to talk about things as intimate and complex as not being in control of your drinking. Talking is good, and if done willingly, from your deep desire to be free, it’s better. Loved ones may want to discuss it at a time that is not right for you. It is not for them to decide.

Indeed, you could find plenty of resources to change things and reduce or even stop your consumption – to regain control over your life – without having to tell someone about it.

But sometimes you can’t do it alone. And that we must recognize that the situation is not going to get better. It is often at this moment that the need to “unload” is felt. It is therefore up to you to find someone to talk to about it.

If you know someone who uses

Talking about it shows that you are there and that the person can confide in you. It’s never too late to talk about it. Nothing should prevent you from telling the person that you are worried about them.

It is recommendable to talk to them when you feel the moment is right.  What matters is that the person knows that you are talking to them about it because they matter to you.

With the right approach, you can quickly get to the bottom of their problem. They might tell you that you are wrong or that you are right but that it does not matter. This can mean that there was nothing to be alarmed about. Or that you have been misinformed. Or that there is indeed a problem, but the person does not want to talk about it. 

If you need to talk, turn to someone you trust completely. Addressing drug use can only be done with someone you are sure will fully respect this uniqueness and preciousness.

If you want to discuss one of your relatives who uses drugs with a third party, be careful not to “betray” the person by talking to his friends or his family. It is best to talk to a confidant in your circle and who does not know or has little contact with the person you want to talk to.