Understanding the Addiction Definition

Last Updated: Feb 24th 2020

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky

Understanding the Addiction Definition

The first step in solving any type of problem is to understand what the problem is. One of the biggest reasons why so many people die from addiction is that they don’t understand what addiction is. While many people can drink or use drugs recreationally, understanding the addiction definition will help you see if you’re not one of them. Addiction only affects a fraction of the people in the world, but it can be fatal for those who lose control.

The Basics of the Addiction Definition

You may have heard of terms like “functioning alcoholic” or “functioning addict,” which create misconceptions. One of the biggest misconceptions about alcohol and drug addiction is that you need to have lost everything to be an addict. This couldn’t be further from the truth. A prime example is looking at high-profile deaths from addiction, including celebrities and politicians. While these men and women seemingly had everything, drugs or alcohol were still capable of taking their lives.

Addiction is as simple as continuing any action despite the negative consequences that result from that action. This is what often baffles people about addiction. It seems to defy all logic and reason. Loved ones of people with addictions generally aren’t able to comprehend why they don’t just stop drinking or using. The answer to this question is because addiction hijacks a part of the brain that’s responsible for survival.

Addiction and the Brain

The human brain is extremely complex. In fact, there are billions of transmitters that help us function every day. The most primitive parts of the brain are in the limbic system, and they’re in charge of our survival instincts. Specifically, the amygdala tells us to repeat any action that gives us pleasure regardless of consequences. The prefrontal cortex, which is the “thinking brain,” of a person with an addiction doesn’t communicate properly with the amygdala.

The responsibilities of the prefrontal cortex include:

  • Logical decision making
  • Impulse control
  • Self-awareness
  • Emotional regulation

When the amygdala runs unrestrained, the person is going to continue drinking or using purely out of instinct. Many times this starts out with substance abuse, which trains the brain to drink or use when different things trigger it. One example is people who drink or use to deal with specific symptoms of mental illness, like anxiety or depression. Eventually, the brain subconsciously tells the person to drink or use drugs any time he or she feels depressed or anxious. Medical professionals refer to this as “self-medication.”

Healing the Brain Through Treatment

At First Step Behavioral, we’ll educate you more on the addiction definition. The more you know about addiction, the more you’ll understand why treatment methods are crucial. Through our treatment program, you’ll experience different therapies that help to retrain the brain. During this process, your brain will begin to understand that there are better ways to deal with emotions and situations.

Our facility in Pompano Beach, Florida has over 100 beds, and we provide our clients with multiple levels of care. Call us today at (866) 319-6126 to learn more about our addiction treatment center.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky

Brittany PolanskyBrittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is a Primary Clinician at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.