not about life Addiction long illness a lifestyle choice

Addiction is a major health problem that costs around all other mental illnesses combined (about £40 billion per year) and about as much as cancer and cardiovascular disorders also.

At its core addiction is a state of altered brain function that leads to fundamental changes in behavior which are manifest by repeated use of alcohol or other drugs or participating in activities such as for instance gambling.  These are usually resisted, albeit unsuccessfully, by the addict.  The important thing top features of addiction is therefore circumstances of habitual behaviour such as drug taking or gambling that's initially enjoyable but which eventually becomes self-sustaining or habitual. The urge to take part in the behaviour becomes so powerful so it interferes with normal life often to the stage of overtaking work, personal relationships and family activities. Now the individual may be considered addicted: the addict's every thought and action is directed for their addiction and the rest suffers.

If the addictive behaviour is extremely hard e.g. because they do not have sufficient money then feelings of intense distress emerge. These could result in dangerously impulsive and sometimes aggressive actions.  In the event of drug/alcohol addiction the specific situation is compounded by the occurrence of withdrawal reactions which cause further distress and motivate desperate attempts to get more of the addictive agent. This urge to get the drug might be so overpowering that addicts will commit seemingly random crimes to have the resources to buy more drug. It's been estimated that about 70% of most acquisitive crime is connected with drug and alcohol use.

Addiction is driven by a complex group of internal and external factors.  The external factors are well understood:  the more usage of the desired drug or behaviour e.g. gambling the more addiction there is.

The internal factors are less clear. Although most addiction is to alcohol and other drugs, addiction to gambling and other behaviours such as for instance sex or shopping can occur. These tell us that the mind can develop hard-to-control urges independent of changing its chemistry with drugs.  All addictions share a standard thread in that they're initially pleasurable activities, often extremely enjoyable. This results in these behaviours hijacking the brain's normal pleasure systems so that naturally enjoyable activities such as for example family life, work, exercise become devalued and the more excessive addiction behaviours take over.

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