Addiction: The Uncomfortable Truth

Addiction is not due to weakness or a lack of willpower. Instead, it’s a chronic disease involving changes in the brain. There, billions of nerve cells or neurons communicate through a series of signals and chemical messengers, where messages leave one neuron, they attach to a receptor on the receiving point, like a key fitting into a lock.

In addiction, this communication process is disrupted. Large amounts of a brain chemical called dopamine are released, overwhelming receptors and resulting in the high that people experience. To keep them feeling going, they take the drug or engage in the behavior again and again. Eventually, the brain changes and adapts, driving them to seek out more just to get the same feeling. That’s called tolerance, stopping a substance can cause withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, tremors, depression, or severe anxiety, taking too much of a substance or a combination of substances can result in an overdose and serious illness, or even death.