not about life Addiction long illness a lifestyle choice

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

At its core addiction is a state of altered brain function that contributes to fundamental changes in behavior which can be manifest by repeated use of alcohol or other drugs or engaging in activities such as gambling.  These are usually resisted, albeit unsuccessfully, by the addict.  The main element top features of addiction is therefore a state of habitual behaviour such as 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 level of overtaking work, personal relationships and family activities. At this time the individual may be reported to be addicted: the addict's every thought and action is directed to their addiction and everything else suffers.

If the addictive behaviour is difficult e.g. because they do not have enough money then feelings of intense distress emerge. These could lead to dangerously impulsive and sometimes aggressive actions.  In the event of drug/alcohol addiction the 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 have the drug may be so overpowering that addicts will commit seemingly random crimes to obtain the resources to buy more drug. It has been estimated that about 70% of acquisitive crime is associated with drug and alcohol use.

Addiction is driven by a sophisticated pair of internal and external factors.  The external factors are well understood:  the more access to 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 mental performance can develop hard-to-control urges independent of changing its chemistry with drugs.  All addictions share a standard thread in they are initially pleasurable activities, often extremely enjoyable. This results in these behaviours hijacking the brain's normal pleasure systems in order that naturally enjoyable activities such as family life, work, exercise become devalued and the more excessive addiction behaviours take over.

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