How does addiction work?
Addiction is the state of being physically and mentally dependent on a substance or activity. The brain registers all pleasure in the same way, regardless of where you find that pleasure: drugs, a monetary reward or even a delicious meal. Pleasure has a distinct signature: the release of a neurotransmitter, dopamine, into the nucleus accumbens. The nucleus accumbens is a collection of nerve cells that are found beneath the cerebral cortex. All drugs cause an extremely strong surge of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. The likeliness of someone becoming addicted to a drug or activity rests on how fast it encourages the release of dopamine and how intense that release is. The brain reward system is naturally activated when we do actions that are good for us. It is part of our natural ability to adapt and survive. Whenever something activates this system, the brain assumes that something important to survival is going on. The brain then rewards that behavior by creating feelings of pleasure. Substances of abuse (particularly drugs) hijack this system. They cause intense releases of dopamine in the brain and that fools the brain into thinking that those substances are necessary to survival. It distorts your perception of liking, wanting and even needing things, prompting you to crave the substance constantly, although they are unnecessary and do more harm than good.
2.) AN UNDERSTANDING OF WHY TEENAGERS ENGAGE IN THESE BEHAVIOURS
The part of the brain responsible for personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behaviour is called the prefrontal cortex.
This part isn’t fully developed until one is aged 21 (women) to 25 (men) years old.
Image – National Institute of Mental Health; Paul Thompson, Ph.D., UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging
Because of this lack of development, teenagers aren’t fully capable of completely understanding risks and the consequences to those risks. This means that when faced with a tricky situation, teenagers won’t fully take into account the risks involved with actions and the consequences that may follow.
Teenagers also engage in activities like taking drugs to satisfy their curiosity, ease their pain, to feel grown and independent and/or fit into a particular group. Other factors present are: failure in school, low self-esteem, having easy access to substances and living in an environment where such actions are condoned.Peer pressure is another common reason as to why they participate in these behaviors.
3.) THE RISKS INVOLVED
Many people don’t quite understand the risks involved in abusing substances. Abusing food, for example can lead to extremely high cholesterol, sugar and pressure in the blood. Diabetes can ensue and even heart disease after that. Illicit drugs, on the other hand, can cause a myriad of both long and short – term health problems. The type of substance, dosage, method of dosage, frequency of use, purity of the substance and sterility of equipment used can somewhat determine how serious the effects of the substance are on the body.
Long term drug abuse can cause: heart disorders, brain damage, and liver disease. The use of injections as a way of taking drugs, for example, can cause collapse of blood vessels, cardiovascular infections, strokes, seizures and heart failure, just to name a few of the potentially life-threatening side effects of intravenous drug use. Abuse of illicit substances causes serious mental, emotional and physical repercussions.
4.) TIPS FOR TEENAGERS
Resist peer pressure: Peer pressure is often the reason why teens end up getting involved in dangerous activities. You can resist peer pressure by setting goals for yourself; what do you want to be? How will you get there? Will this help me achieve my ultimate goal?
Educate yourself: Knowledge is power. If you know the dangers of taking drugs and how they can seriously damage you, resisting temptation will be much easier for you. When you’ve done your research, educate your friends and the people around you.
Avoid negativity: Often, the reason why people start taking drugs is because they are looking for some kind of quick relief from the stress they feel in their daily lives. Avoid this by trying to stay positive. Kick toxic people, relationships and habits out of your life. Once they leave the negativity goes with them. Engaging in relaxing activities that you enjoy (not drugs) like sports, or playing musical, or yoga can help improve your state of mind and reduce your stress levels.
Surround yourself with the right kind of people: The teenage brain is extremely vulnerable to outside influences. Make sure that the influences around you are only positive. What are your friends’ views? Do you share similar goals with them? Will they help you achieve your goals? If your friends are the kind that get into trouble often, just double-check that aren’t bringing you down as well. If they are, it is probably for the best that you distance yourself from them slightly, just so their bad behaviour doesn’t rub off on you.
5.) ADDITIONAL RESEARCH ON NOMOPHOBIA
Nomophobia is the irrational fear of being without your phone or being unable to use it for some reason. The word nomophobia is a portmanteau made up of the words no+mobile+phone+phobia. (whatis.techtarget.com/definition/nomophobia) Although teenagers are most prone to this modern phenomenon – having grown up during the time of smartphones – nobody is immune to it.
A study has shown that parents who spend a lot of time on their phones have a greater tendency to shout at their children. Aside from these habits, parents who are addicted to their phones spend more time on their phones than with their children. This can cause children’s frustration levels to increase significantly and they end up releasing their frustrations in different ways.