Addiction does not come singing, nor does it leave singing. Addiction will not leave easily, as it creeps in little by little and settles in the brain secretly and thoroughly.
You have an addiction if you can’t manage without something any longer, when you spend an unreasonable amount of time on acquiring, consuming, and recovering from the source of your addiction. How much is unreasonable? You should ask the people around you.
You can develop an addiction to almost anything. It need not necessarily be harmful at all, so it is wise to go for as harmless an addiction as possible.
Drugs belong to particularly insidious sources of addiction. They consistently modify the chemical speech of nervous cells, acting like a propaganda feed in an unannounced information war. Over time, the brain starts gradually and increasingly to accept the drugs’ messages as valid. When the brain settles on that, the person has no other way than to follow.
Why do addictions seem inevitable? Our brain is an exceptionally powerful phenomenon, and this comes with a cost. The physiological processes that take place in the brain without us being conscious of them increase our ability to act. The brain does a lot for us, often also taking the decisions that matter, and sometimes inevitably going with them too far.
As an addiction forms, the brain rebuilds itself brick by brick. Firstly, the brain’s dopamine neurons change, followed by many others. How to live with a transformed brain, and how to get rid of the treacherous constructor – this is a great challenge to learn.
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Jaanus Harro is Professor of Psychophysiology at the University of Tartu. His research areas include pharmacology, psychology, health research, and neuroscience.