Exploring the Psychology of Addiction

Exploring the Psychology of Addiction-1

Table of Contents

Addiction is such a grave problem that even after countless attempts from both public and private sources, it continues to claim people’s lives. At this moment, millions of people around the globe are suffering from addictive substance use.


Both drugs and alcohol are harmful substances for the human body. People, despite knowing the consequences of using such substances, become addicted to them. Though we have treatment options for drug and alcohol use, the question of what causes addiction to these substances remains somewhat unclear.


The psychology of substance use disorder aims to understand the risk factors of addiction. It includes a wide range of topics like whether substance abuse is a personal failing or a chronic problem, childhood trauma, lifestyle effects, socioeconomic demographics, family history, and other variables that cannot be measured.


Although addiction is a brain disorder, various psychological factors add to its development and maintenance. It is just not you liking the effects of drug use and wanting to try it more that gets you addicted. It is far more complex than people imagine it to be.


What Is The Science Of Addiction?

A great deal of research has been done throughout time to understand what makes people addicted to drugs and alcohol, or both. Even then, researchers have not understood whether biology or psychology drives the condition. While it is clear that some aspects of addiction are more psychological, a majority of it is biological.


Addiction psychology helps us understand behavioral addiction and drug addiction, including its causes, effects, and effective treatment. The psychology community shares different opinions and perspectives on drug and alcohol addiction.


They use different therapeutic models to refine treatment programs, some of which are used alongside addiction medicine. Most addiction treatment programs include psychotherapy provided to people who seek help.


How Can A Habit Turn Into Addiction?

When you engage in a specific behavior, may it be anything, your brain responds to the stimulus created by the behavior and perceives it as “rewarding.” Then your brain’s reward system creates an impulse to make you repeat the behavior. This is due to your brain liking the effect of the behavior, and wanting more of it. Dopamine is the chemical that motivates your brain to motivate you to repeat the behavior.


Engaging in a rewarding behaviour more times conditions your brain to repeat it to achieve a good feeling. These feelings are created by dopamine and other chemicals in the brain. When you repeat a behavior many times, it gradually turns into a habit.


One fine example is the use of drugs like nicotine or opioids. When you use drugs for the first time, it makes you feel ecstatic, making your brain crave for it more. When you start using the drug more often, you slowly become addicted to it. You are compelled to take the drug until and unless you achieve a neurochemical rebalance.


How To Tell Substance Use Disorder Apart From Regular Behavior?

People can become addicted to not just drugs and alcohol, but other things as well. Other forms of addiction include behavior addiction and gambling addiction.


Speaking of addiction, it is not the same thing as regular behavior. To seek professional help, you must identify the addiction first. At times, our tendencies and habits are mistaken for addiction.


Some people may have harmful behavior, but they are not addictive. Let’s take the example of a young college student who likes to binge drink on weekends. Even though it involves repeated behavior, it cannot be called addiction. This is because the person may overcome this behavior after their college days are over.


However, it is not easy to identify an addiction, especially if the behavior involved is seen as “normal.” Like playing games or eating chocolates whenever you feel bored or stressed.

Exploring the Psychology of Addiction
Stages Of Alcohol And Drug Addiction

Drug and alcohol use disorder doesn’t occur in a day or two. Instead, it happens across four different stages and over time. Let us now break down the four stages of substance addiction.



Developing an addiction starts with internal and external thoughts that set off strong feelings in a person. These feelings or actions are often not positive, and can be hard to resolve them. Some triggers include a traumatic experience, work stress, or a bad relationship.



Most people try their best to avoid these triggers and not face them as long as possible. They push their feelings aside, thinking it will resolve over time. However, it doesn’t always go that way.



When you cannot handle your negative feelings anymore, you start looking for a substitute. Many people resort to drug and alcohol use to enjoy the good feeling they derive from it. It helps them replace the bad feelings with good ones, making them believe it is an easy solution. This creates a long-term problem of drug use and addiction.



When you continue repeating these actions with no worries about the consequences, it turns into substance abuse and addiction. You become addicted to drugs to deal with the bad emotions inside your mind, not realizing the damage it causes.


Role Of Dopamine In Drug Misuse And Addiction

The development of drug addiction has a lot to do with dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter or chemical released by the brain when a person indulges in a “rewarding” behavior like eating, drinking, etc. This is a survival mechanism that is natural to human beings.


Activities like sex are both rewarding and joyful and, therefore, produce more dopamine. This chemical creates a memory of the behavior or experience, making you do it again. The same is valid for severe substance use disorder.


People struggling with addiction should get help from support services near them. When you stop taking the drug, it leads to withdrawal symptoms and then relapse. This makes overcoming addiction hard, but the right treatment plan can be helpful. If you are going through a possible addiction problem, you should seek treatment from a drug counselor at once.


Final Words

Addiction begins with repeated behavior. When you continue using drugs just to feel good, it turns into an addiction. People with addiction need help and support to overcome the problem. Biological, psychological, and environmental factors lead to addiction. If you are affected by symptoms of addiction, you should seek help urgently.


Different addiction forms include nicotine addiction, alcohol addiction, drug addiction, gambling addiction, and behavior addiction.

Substance use disorder involves the excessive use of illegal or legal substances like drugs, medications, and alcohol.

Symptoms of drug addiction vary from one person to another. The signs include high feeling, reduced sense of pain, drowsiness, slurred speech, problems with memory and attention, and lack of attention.

People become addicted to drugs after trying them many times. It becomes a sort of habit, making your body want more of it. As you use drugs repeatedly, it becomes an addiction.

Many factors, such as peer pressure, lack of family, stress, and others, increase addiction risks. Both biological and psychological factors are associated with addiction.

Contributing Editor

Troy Wakelin – Co-Founder and Contributing Editor SoberCentre.com

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