July 28, 2011

Addiction is a common language term for the clinical entity known as Chemical Dependence. For decades Americans have known the term addiction to indicate an individual who is out of control in their use of mood-altering drugs. The term addiction has taken on a connotation that is highly stigmatized (like the term “alcoholic” is much more stigmatized than the term “drinking problem”). In reality, addiction is a primarily genetic, chronic progressive disease of the brain that is characterized by the intermittent inconsistent loss of control over the use of mood-altering drugs, resulting in repetitive adverse consequences to the user. The basic brain problem of addiction appears to be an inability to consistently control the use of drugs that produce an acute or quick surge of dopamine in the brain. This surge of dopamine leads to a feeling of euphoria or “high.” Addiction to mood-altering drugs other than nicotine affects 10-13% of Americans at some time in their lives. A more complete description of addiction is in the entry entitled Substance use.

SEE ALSO: Chemical dependency, Substance use

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