Addiction is a persistent condition characterized by the irresistible urge to consume a substance or engage in an activity. Its effects extend beyond personal well-being, often causing great harm to health, relationships and overall quality of life. 

It is essential to recognize the signs of addiction and seek help promptly to manage and overcome its challenges. Read on to learn more about how addiction develops and affects the human body.

What Causes Addiction?

Each addiction situation is different, and there are generally several factors that influence young people to get addicted. Teenagers cope with many challenges. The most common motivation that leads to addiction is dealing with peer pressure at school. Stress at home (such as family issues, illness, or money troubles), depression, and social anxiety are other reasons. Many teens lack support at home because their parents can get caught up in their own problems.

Another contributing factor lies within the individual’s brain chemistry. Some individuals, owing to the inherent processing of chemicals in their brains, exhibit a heightened susceptibility to addiction. This susceptibility can be attributed to familial genetics or other factors and affects brain chemistry, making those people more likely to get hooked. That’s how the cycle starts.

Addiction Development in Brain Cells 

Throughout evolution, our brains developed a reward system, guiding us toward vital needs for survival. In science, these are known as natural reinforcers that trigger the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the reward system. The way psychoactive substances make a significant impact is by imitating this feeling. Substances like alcohol, cocaine and cannabis elevate dopamine levels beyond what natural reinforcers can achieve.

As one engages in frequent drug or alcohol consumption, the likelihood of addiction increases. The habit changes the behavior of the reward system, making it increasingly responsive to the drug. As a result, natural reinforcers lose their significance. The individuals become more reliant on the drug’s effects and might not be able to control it. It turns from consumption to compulsion.

Types of Addiction 

In general, addiction consists of two types: substance addiction and non-substance addiction. Substance addiction deals with the use of drugs and non-substance deals with behavioral disorders. 

Substance Addiction 

Substance addiction, also known as substance use disorder (SUD), is a complex condition characterized by uncontrolled substance use despite adverse consequences. Individuals with SUD focus intensely on specific substances, impairing their daily functioning. Even when they are aware of the problems caused, they persist in substance use. 

SUD involves distorted thinking and behaviors linked to brain structure and function changes. Brain imaging of addicts reveals alterations in judgment, decision-making, learning and memory. Substances causing addiction include alcohol, marijuana, hallucinogens, inhalants, opioid painkillers, sedatives, stimulants and tobacco/nicotine.

Non-Substance Addiction

Behavioral addictions occur when activities stimulate your brain’s reward system. Gambling disorder is a behavioral addiction, but other activities like eating, exercising or shopping can also become problematic. When any activity takes over your life and causes adverse impacts, it can lead to mental, social, physical and financial problems.

Early Signs of Addiction

Substance addiction often starts with trying something for fun. It can quickly become a severe problem. Some drugs, like opioids, can be especially tricky because they lead to addiction quicker than other drugs. People with addiction often gain a tolerance and need more of the substance to feel the same. Quitting can result in a range of responses, from simply feeling bad to physical pain and mental stress.  

In the case of behavioral addiction, engaging in certain activities may start as experimentation and progressively intensify. The risk and development of behavioral addiction depend on the specific behavior. Tolerance may also develop with behavior as involvement increases, necessitating frequent or intense engagement to achieve the same satisfaction.

Visible Symptoms

Drug addiction manifests through various symptoms and behaviors. Individuals often find themselves feeling compelled to use the substance regularly, even multiple times a day. Intense urges for the drug/alcohol can dominate thoughts, overshadowing any other considerations. 

Over time, the addict might need more of the drug to feel the same, and this can lead to financial problems. This affects their ability to fulfill work or social and recreational obligations. Also, addiction might push people to do things they would not normally do, such as stealing or other criminal activity.

Challenges in Addiction Recovery

Quitting drugs and alcohol is more than just saying no; it is a journey of unexpected challenges. Understanding and overcoming these hurdles is crucial for a successful recovery. Here are some common burdens individuals may face during their initial year of recovery:

Difficult Emotions 

When faced with emotions like stress, shame, anger, grief and anxiety, it can be more challenging to stay sober. These feelings are often linked to substance use, making quitting even more difficult. To successfully overcome addiction, it is essential to learn effective strategies for managing these emotions.


Dealing with cravings can be especially difficult because they often feel like irresistible commands, making it harder to resist the urge to use. It is crucial to approach cravings from various angles to address and pinpoint a method to avoid them.

Once you reveal and understand the triggers, you can work on strategies to change your behavior and find effective ways to regulate your emotions. It is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Overcoming the psychological pull of cravings demands a blend of approaches to increase your chances of success.


Post-recovery, the sudden abundance of free time can be surprising and challenging. Addiction alters the brain’s interests, causing non-substance-related activities to appear dull. Coping with boredom requires innovative behavioral strategies and practicing patience during brain adaptation.

Time Dedication 

The individual must dedicate a significant amount of time to obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of the drug. Despite multiple attempts to quit, individuals often find themselves unable to break free from the cycle of drug use. Withdrawal symptoms further complicate stopping efforts, creating a challenging and often distressing cycle for those grappling with drug addiction. 

With proper guidance, addiction can be defeated.

Ready for a positive change? Discover a transformative journey at Paul Anderson Youth Home! Recovery is about crafting a fulfilling, connected life. Our dynamic program tackles mental well-being, imparts effective strategies, teaches vital life skills, and builds a strong social support system. Call us now to explore our unique approach to a brighter future!

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