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Christian Counseling - The Chemistry of Addiction

We are created in such a way that anyone can become psychologically and/or physically addicted. Some theorize the existence of an addictive personality (predisposition to becoming addicted). Though this has not been confirmed by research, there are traits that are associated with this personality, such as impulsivity, neuroticism and difficulty managing high stress.

Current belief holds the brain is key in the addiction process. All addictive substances (and some pleasurable activities) cause the release of dopamine (the feel good neurotransmitter) in the brain. Dopamine interacts with other neurotransmitters that link "pleasure with desire and action (seeking the substance)." Another part of the brain stores the information. When these memories are triggered by sight (a bar), smell (smoke), etc., the person experiences a craving and is driven to repeat the behavior that rewards with strong feelings of pleasure.1

Because cravings are so powerful and the brain is so easily programmed recovery is a lifelong process. Part of the treatment surrounds finding new sources of pleasure and unhooking from cues that awaken pleasurable memories. Self-help groups, such as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), OA (Overeaters Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) are often, at least, part of the recovery process. Individual therapy further aids in understanding the path each person has uniquely followed into addiction and developing a path out.

Philippians 4:6 says, "Be anxious for nothing..."  A more accurate rendering is, "Do not give yourself to over thinking or over caring anything." Doing so is a thought or a care gone too far, which can lead to addiction. In the beginning, before an addiction is formed, we are to short-circuit the process by turning our hearts and minds toward something or someone else. Scripture advocates turning to God and discovering His peace.


1  Miller, Michael Craig, M.D., 2010. Harvard mental Health Letter. Why Addiction Causes Craving (August 2010): Vol. 27, No. 2, p. 7

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