What is Your Addiction?

All or nothing.

By Kevin RR Williams

HEALTH Addiction is no longer limited to injections imbibations or inhalations. It can involve tech­nology or emotions. I was addicted to my college girl­friend. She consumed my waking thoughts and her absence triggered daily letter writing. Computer program­ming can stimulate an compul­sive nature. Affecting teens through adults, people are more prone to admit legal addictions. The Huffington Post asks, “Is Everyone Addicted To Something?” Research reveals a wide range of obsessions, compulsions and addictions that affect a number of people in developed countries:

  • Fourteen million Americans abuse alcohol or are addicted to it; three million American teens between ages 14 and 17 are problem drinkers. (www.alcoholics-info.com)
  • Conservative estimates indicate that there are about two million cocaine addicts, 1.4 million regular methamphetamine users, and 800,000 hardcore heroin addicts. (addictionnomore.com and pbs.org/frontline)
  • Fifteen million Americans display signs of gambling addiction. Researchers call gambling the fastest-growing teenage addiction: 42 percent of 14-year-olds, 49 percent of 15-year-olds, 63 percent of 16-year-olds, and 76 percent of 18-year-olds. (overcominggambling.com/facts.html)
  • Forty million adults in the United States regularly visit pornography sites; ten percent of them (four million) admit to having a sexual addiction to pornography. (reliableanswers.com)
  • In 2007, 60 million Americans (24.2 percent of the population) were current cigarette smokers, 13.3 million smoked cigars, 8.1 million used smokeless tobacco, and two million smoked tobacco in pipes. (drugabuser.gov/infofacts/tobacco)

There is debate over whether everyone has an addiction. But it cannot be denied that a high percentage of the population is affected. So what’s your addiction: alcohol, body modification, caffeine, drugs, food, gambling, exercising, gaming, porn, sex, smoking, tattoos, television watching, texting, sexting, or work? Perhaps it qualifies as specific disorder like anorexia nervosa, bulimia, OCD or OCPD. Each compulstion or addiction may fall under the umbrella of Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS).

What is Your Addiction?

What is Reward Deficiency Syndrome?

RDS is a biogenetic psychological theory first noted by American neuro­psycho­pharma­colo­gist Kenneth Blum in 1996. It involves reward-seeking behavior affected by neurological chemical reactions primarily involving dopamine and serotonin. Those with RDS are less inclined to experience pleasurable stimulation than the typical population. Therefore, they seek fulfillment in more extreme forms. Various drugs, stressors, or behaviors can create changes within the brain that may cause temporary RDS.

  • Basic explanation: When D2 receptor activity is inadequate, activity levels of neurons within the nucleus accumbens and hippocampus becomes reduced. The individual feels unpleasant emotions and/or cravings for substances that will release dopamine, thereby providing temporary relief from unpleasant emotions.
  • Cascade theory: Neurons responsible for releasing serotonin in the hypothalamus become excited and release enkephalin (an opioid peptide). This inhibits activity of neurons that release GABA (an inhibitory neurotransmitter) and dopaminergic neurons release dopamine which leads to a “cascade effect.”

Some are able to successfully break free from an addiction. However, if someone is weaned off a drug (or addictive behavior) without addressing the underlying causes, (s)he often ends up just switching the addiction to something else. Commonly, ex-smokers increase their food intake. Addiction is more about a set of behaviors than it is a particular substance, and taking away something that our body is used to constantly having will almost always lead to a bad reaction. —Listverse

Experiencing euphoria that diminishes over time from the same level of activity leads some to become consumed with increasing the intensity. For a more detailed discussion of RDS, read the comprehensive article: Reward Deficiency Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment at Mental Health Daily.

Related: Working With Obsessive People

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Tags: bad habits, data, impulsivity, mental health, neurology, uncontrolled activities