Life Cycle and Mechanics of Addiction
|Marijuana Online Resource
by Gary W. Smith
What is Addiction Really?
Whether a person is genetically or bio-chemically predisposed to
addiction or alcoholism is a controversy that has been debated for years
within the scientific, medical and chemical dependency communities. One
school of thought advocates the “disease concept” which embraces the
notion that addiction is an inherited disease, and that the individual
is permanently ill at a genetic level, even for those experiencing long
periods of sobriety.
Another philosophy argues that addiction is a dual problem consisting of
a physical and mental dependency on chemicals, compounded by a
pre-existing mental disorder (i.e., clinical depression, bipolar
disorder or some other mental illness), and that the mental disorder
needs to be treated first as the primary cause of the addiction.
A third philosophy subscribes to the idea that chemical dependency leads
to permanent “chemical imbalances” in the neurological system that must
be treated with psychotropic medications after the person has withdrawn
from their drug of choice.
The fact remains that there is some scientific research that favors each
of these addiction concepts, but none of them are absolute. Based on
national averages, addiction treatment has a 16% to 20% recovery rate.
The message is pretty clear that these theories are just that, theories,
and we have a lot more to learn if we are to bring the national recovery
rate to a more desirable level.
There is a fourth school of thought which has proven to be more
accurate. It has to do with the life cycle of addiction. This data is
universally applicable to addiction, no matter which hypothesis is used
to explain the phenomenon of chemical dependency.
The life cycle of addiction begins with a problem, discomfort or some
form of emotional or physical pain a person is experiencing. The person
finds this very difficult to deal with.
Here is an individual who, like most people in our society, is basically
good. He has encountered a problem that is causing him physical or
emotional pain and discomfort that he does not have an immediate answer
for. Examples would include difficulty “fitting in” as a child or
teenager, puberty, physical injuries such a broken bone, a bad back or
some other chronic physical condition. Whatever the origin of the
difficulty is, the discomfort associated with it presents the individual
with a real problem. He feels this problem is a major situation that is
persisting. He can see no immediate resolution or relief from it. Most
of us have experienced this in our lives to a greater or lesser degree.
Once the person takes a drug, he feels relief from the discomfort, even
though the relief is only temporary. That drink or drug is adopted as a
solution to the problem and the individual places value on the
substance. This assigned value is the only reason the person ever uses
drugs or drinks a second, third or more times.
There is a key factor involved in this life cycle scenario that
determines which of us become addicts and which do not. The answer
depends on whether or not, at the time of this traumatic experience, we
are subjected to pro-drug or pro-alcohol influences via some sort of
significant peer pressure that influences our decision-making process
with regard to finding relief from the discomfort. Peer pressure can
manifest itself in many different ways. It can come from friends or
family members or through some avenue of advertising or promotion which,
when combined with the degree of relief we receive from the drug or
drink, determines the severity of the use. Simply put, the bigger the
problem, the greater the discomfort the person experiences. The greater
the discomfort, the more importance the person places on relieving it
and the greater the value he assigns to that which brought about the
For those that start down the path of addiction, they will encounter
other physical, mental and lifestyle changes along the way that will
begin to cause the individual’s quality of life to deteriorate. If the
drug or alcohol abuse continues unchecked, eventually the person is
faced with so many unpleasant circumstances in their life that each
sober moment is filled with so much despair and misery that all he wants
to do is escape these feelings by medicating them away. This is the
downward spiral of addiction. At this point for most there are only
three inevitable outcomes: death, prison or sobriety.
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