not choice about Addiction illness life a lifestyle long

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

At its core addiction is really a state of altered brain function that leads to fundamental changes in behavior which are manifest by repeated utilization of alcohol or other drugs or participating in activities such as for example gambling.  They are usually resisted, albeit unsuccessfully, by the addict.  The key options that come with addiction is therefore a state of habitual behaviour such as for example drug taking or gambling that is initially enjoyable but which eventually becomes self-sustaining or habitual. The urge to participate in the behaviour becomes so powerful so it disrupts normal life often to the point of overtaking work, personal relationships and family activities. At this point the person could be said to be addicted: the addict's every thought and action is directed for their addiction and anything else suffers.

If the addictive behaviour is extremely hard e.g. because they do not have enough money then feelings of intense distress emerge. These may lead to dangerously impulsive and sometimes aggressive actions.  In the case of drug/alcohol addiction the situation is compounded by the occurrence of withdrawal reactions which cause further distress and motivate desperate attempts to locate 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 get more drug. It's been estimated that about 70% of most acquisitive crime is associated with drug and alcohol use.

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

The interior factors are less clear. Although most addiction is to alcohol and other drugs, addiction to gambling and other behaviours such as sex or shopping can occur. These reveal that mental performance can develop hard-to-control urges independent of changing its chemistry with drugs.  All addictions share a common 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 family life, work, exercise become devalued and the more excessive addiction behaviours take over.

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