Addiction central

  • shikha sharma, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • |
  • Updated: Jan 15, 2011 18:41 IST

Even though the perils of tobacco and alcohol are well known, there is an alarming rise in the consumption of these addictive substances in India. We hear of the word addiction in association with substances like alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and sometimes even work. Generally speaking, men are more prone to all types of addictions than women. In a similar vein, people from younger age groups are more vulnerable to developing addictions than people over 35 years.

What is an addiction?
An addiction is a state where the person, despite realising the negative effects of that substance or activity, continues to indulge in that activity because he or she is simply so dependent on that substance that living without it seems painful. It is very easy to simply write about people who become addicts, but the truth is that at some levels we all harbour some minute addictions that we do not acknowledge. Before we discuss soft addictions, it is important to understand how addictions happen.

AlcoholThe mind-body connection : The mind and body work on the pain-pleasure principle. As humans, we are programmed to avoid pain and make efforts towards receiving pleasure. Our minds release nerve transmitters (neurotransmitters), which give us a high or a kick, as some people like to put it. Such a sensation is termed as a pleasure sensation and once any activity or substance gives us that pleasure, we want more and more and more of it.

Nerve transmitters like dopamine and serotonin give us a pleasurable feel, while some transmitters released due to pain give us a very unpleasant to horrible sensation. We can receive a pleasure sensation, varying from a soft sensation like eating the food of our choice or something sweet to an unnatural high, which comes from substance abuse drugs.

The faster the sensation and the stronger the sensation, the higher is the chance of it becoming addictive. When we eat sweets, it becomes difficult to give them up, but with sustained effort we are able to do so. On a stronger level, chewing tobacco or guthka is definitely much harder to give up, but if the issue is of life and death then even that addiction can be overcome.
But the toughest addictions are those of substance abuse. Once the mind and body get caught in the web of such sensations that the substance provides, it is unlikely that the person will escape that trap.

(To be continued)

From HT Brunch, Januray 16

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