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What is Addiction?

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At Hope Center Ministries, combating addiction by inspiring our residents to become true faith-driven followers of Christ is more than just our passion, it's our entire reason for existence. But what exactly is addiction?

Addiction can be a complex and multi-faceted issue: both the nature and the root causes of addiction vary widely between individuals, and substances that are easily recreationally managed by some are often the same substances that lead to compulsive abuse, injury, and (eventually) death in others.

This is one reason why we at Hope Center believe that understanding addiction is one of the most important steps in treating it.

Defining Addiction

According to the National Institute of Health, addiction is defined as "a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences. It is considered a brain disorder because it involves functional changes to brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control."

Addiction is more than just a lack of willpower or moral failing; it is a medical condition that affects the brain's structure and function. It often begins with the voluntary act of taking a substance or engaging in a behavior that usually seems harmless or 'fun', but over time, the ability to choose whether or not to continue that behavior becomes compromised. This is due to the reward system of the brain essentially becoming hijacked, leading to intense cravings and a focus on the addictive substance or activity above all else. What begins relatively innocuously soon becomes the driving force in the addict's life; a cyclical pattern of highs and lows with the 'highs' becoming increasingly difficult to maintain and the 'lows' becoming deeper, darker, and ever more dangerous.

Causes of Addiction

Because the ways in which addiction exhibits itself can be so wide-ranging, it's often difficult to pin down exactly what causes any specific individual to fall into it in the first place. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, "No single factor can predict whether a person will become addicted to drugs. A combination of genetic, environmental, and developmental factors influences [individual] risk for addiction. The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance that taking drugs can lead to addiction."

Whatever the cause, the story of many addicts remains the same: as one becomes further enmeshed in their addiction, the damage that they incur to their bodies, their lives and their relationships continues to add up. It is often said that the pattern of addiction is 'the definition of insanity'; repeating the same action over and over again while expecting different results. It's easy to begin to feel trapped in this cycle of abuse, as the idea of sobriety becomes increasingly impossible when set against the compulsion to find 'just one more fix'.

The Impact of Addiction

It's often said that many addicts struggle to recognize that their behavior has become problematic, and this can be true for a number of reasons: maybe they see their friends using the same substances and remaining successful, so it's easy for them to justify their behavior by assuming that they too have what it takes to 'keep the wheels on'; perhaps they're so used to being under the influence of their drug of choice that the thought of losing that crutch scares them, or makes them think that they'll no longer be able to be functional without it – and in many cases, the addict may not be wrong in thinking so.

New studies in neurobiology have begun to show that repeated substance abuse doesn't just impair the decision-making process, it damages the part of the brain responsible for it: the prefrontal cortex. "Brain imaging studies of people addicted to drugs or alcohol show decreased activity in this frontal cortex,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse. “When the frontal cortex isn’t working properly, people can’t make the decision to stop taking the drug — even if they realize the price of taking that drug may be extremely high, and they might lose custody of their children or end up in jail. Nonetheless, they take it.”

Whatever the justification, by the time most addicts begin to recognize that they've developed a problem, they've often already begun to incur immense damage to their careers, their relationships, and of course, to themselves. Because addiction is, at its root, a malady of the mind and spirit, it becomes uncomfortable to many, if not unbearable to most, to imagine giving it up until they've lost that which they hold most dear.

Seeking Help

At Hope Center Ministries, we understand the challenges of overcoming substance abuse and pride ourselves in our work across the country helping individuals find lasting recovery through faith in Christ. Recovery is, after all, a journey that requires more than just sobriety alone: it takes a structured approach to spiritual healing, the help of a supportive community, and a personal commitment to change.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, know that you are not alone. Hope Center is here to support you as you begin to walk a new life unburdened by addiction, and we're committed to helping you experience the lasting peace that comes with opening yourself up to a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior.

Contact our admissions coordinators today to begin your own journey of recovery.


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