Addictive Disorders

Addictive disorders, such as substance abuse and dependence, are common disorders that involve the overuse of alcohol and drugs. Addiction develops over time and is a chronic and relapsing illness. In most cases, people with addictions frequently suffer from a mental illness, such as depression, anxiety or another disorder. Addictive disorders are caused by multiple factors, including genetic vulnerability, environmental stressors, social pressures, individual personality characteristics and psychiatric problems.

From a neurological standpoint, addictive disorders arise when a substance changes the way the user’s brain feels pleasure. Addictive substances alter the brain’s ability to send and receive chemicals called neurotransmitters, which cause pleasure. The addictive substances can prevent nerves in the brain (called neurons) from receiving these neurotransmitters, meaning the drug user relies on the drug, rather than his or her natural brain chemicals, for feelings of pleasure.

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