Addictive Behaviors and the Brain

Acupuncture can help to relieve some types of pain, and may also reduce symptoms of withdrawal from drug addiction. (Benson, Herbert, MD., with Marg Stark. Timeless Healing. NY: Scribner, 1996, pp 108-109)

The basic psychobiological process of addiction is fairly similar regardless of the initial sources of the high. There are probably as many possibilities as there are potential pleasures. Many behaviors exhibited in life are potentially addictive including: work, sex, gambling, television, video games, computers, food, exercise, shopping, and the internet—in addition to alcohol and drug use. ( Greenfield, Daivid N., PhD. Virtual Addiction – Help for Netheads, Cyberfreaks, and Those Who Love Them. pp 20 -22. CA:New Harbinger Publications, Inc, 1999.)

Symptoms of addiction include dependency and cravings. Elevated levels of dopamine are associated with all major addictions. (Fisher, Helen. The First Sex. NY: Random House, 1999, p 53)

Compulsive internet use seems to produce the same type of tolerance and withdrawal as other addictions. You can develop a tolerance that pushes you to spend greater amounts of time online or to access ore stimulating material. Web sites need not be sexual in nature in order to become addictive. Any distinction between physical and psychological addictions is impractical and probably irrelevant since humans as wholistic beings. In addition, whether you label this compulsion or addiction is of little relevance. ( Greenfield, Daivid N., PhD. Virtual Addiction – Help for Netheads, Cyberfreaks, and Those Who Love Them. pp 18-20,, 41. CA:New Harbinger Publications, Inc, 1999.)

Definition: a brain that has been altered by a drug to the point that it is no longer in command of its own operation. (Bragdon, Allen D., and David Gamon, PhD. Brains that Work a Little Bit Differently. NY: Barnes and Noble Books, 2000, pp 28-32)

Definition: A person who substitutes another addiction for the one he/she is giving up. Lists 5 steps for getting out of an addictive relationship, and 7 stages for moving from addiction to love. (Schaeffer, Brenda. Is It Love Or Is It Addiction? CA: Harper & Row, 1987, pp 25-26, 94-95)

Explains how some addictive substances are likely designed to work (e.g., LSD blocks serotonin receptors). (Brynie, Faith Hickman. 101 Questions Your Brain Has Asked About Itself But Couldn’t Answer, Until Now. CT: Millbrook Press, 1998, pp 150-151)

Any substance that creates dependence (e.g., opium, nicotine, cocaine, alcohol, marijuana) does so by exerting direct pharmacologic effects on the brain, specifically on areas involved in mood. (Restak, Richard, MD. The Brain has a Mind of its Own. pp 41-44. NY: Crown Publishers, Inc. 1991.)

A term coined to describe alcoholic thinking plus other addictions that have are similar to alcoholism (e.g., eating disorders, sexual addiction, compulsive gambling). It describes distorted thinking, is not affected by intelligence, and usually must be identified from outside the addict. (Twerski, Abraham, MD. Addictive Thinking. CA: Harper & Row, 1990, pp 4-13)

Overcoming addictive behaviors is especially difficult during adolescence. Because of incompletely developed prefrontal lobes, the braking mechanism isn’t in place. Thus, consequences can’t be foreseen, and momentary pleasure trumps any thought of future consequences. (Restak, Richard, MD. The Secret Life of the Brain. Washington D.C.: The Dana Press and Joseph Henry Press, 2001, p 85)

Children of alcoholics are 4 times more likely than other people to become addicted to drink, even if they are brought up away from their natural parents. (Carter, Rita. Mapping the Mind. CA: University of California Press, 1998, p 69)

Study by Dr. Ruth Adams: There seems to be a correlation between sugar addiction and alcohol addiction. (Appleton, Nancy, PhD. Lick the Sugar Habit. NY: Avery Penguin Putnam, 1996, pp 112-118)

Amphetamines, like cocaine, increase the concentrations of dopamine in the synaptic gap. This heightens the response of the post-synaptic neuron. Also like cocaine, the altered dopamine function contributes to the addictiveness of amphetamines. (Kuczenski, R and D. Segal, D. Effects of methylphenidate on extracellular dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine; Comparison with amphetamine. J Neurochem 68 (5): 2032–7. 1997.)

Refer to Substances and the Brain for additional information.

Anger is often a habit, an addiction. The reason is never the reason (e.g., people are rarely angry for the reason they think they are angry). (Fox, Arnold, MD, and Barry Fox, PhD. Wake Up! You’re Alive! FL: Health Communications, 1988, pp 174-176)

Discusses the appropriate use of antidepressant drugs as merely stimulants to jumpstart individuals at a difficult time in life. Without simultaneous therapy to induce personal changes the individual may become dependent on the antidepressants for life. (Glenmullen, Joseph, MD. Prozac Backlash. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2000, p 253)

The bliss perceived by taking opiates is not generated by the brain, but by receptor-bearing cells all over the bodies (e.g., blood, organs, muscles, tissue, bones). Bliss registers in these cells at the same time as it registers in the brain. (Pert, Candace, PhD. Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind (audiocassettes). CO: Sounds True, 2000)

All addictive behaviors have something in common: the ability to impact neurochemical changes in brain chemistry. Dopamine and norepinephrine are chiefly responsible for creating the “brain high” that makes you feel so good. People sometimes try to create an artificial distinction between behaviors and the consumption of substances. Not so. The act of creating ANY pleasurable sensation ALSO creates a chemical change in the brain. Anything that feels good can become addictive. The initial choice to engage in a behavior or use a substance is yours. In most people, however, the easy choice is soon replaced by a less voluntary and more compulsive pattern of use. ( Greenfield, David N., PhD. Virtual Addiction. pp 44-49. CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc, 1999.)

Studies over 3 decades: Structural and functional brain changes occur with repeated drug abuse. Extensive brain changes can include damage to nerve cells and altered biochemical mechanisms in communication pathways. (Zickler, Patrick. Acute Dopamine Surge May Erode Resolve to Abstain. MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA NOTES, Vol 19, No 1, April, 2004, pp S1 – S16)

Early experiences (nurture) in early life affects gene expression, neural pathways, and brain function. This shapes:

  • Temperament and social development
  • Language and literacy capability
  • Perceptual and cognitive ability
  • How we cope with our daily experiences
  • Physical and mental health and behaviour and addiction in adult life
  • Physical activity and performance (e. g., skiing, skating, swimming)

(Mustard, J. Fraser, MD. Early Childhood Development: How does experience in early life affect brain development? 2008. pp. 15.)

Rehearsing a new alternative with emotional intensity creates a new highway in the brain. (Robbins, Anthony. Awaken the Giant Within. NY: Fireside, 1991, pp 136-140)

All drugs of abuse impact the mesolimbic reward system, activated by dopamine. Romantic love stimulates parts of the same pathway with the same chemical, dopamine. (Fisher, Helen. Why We Love. NY: Henry Holt and Company, 2004, pp 182-186)

Drug addiction is a brain disease, based on the power of substances to fool the brain into responding as it would to natural neurotransmitters. Drugs of abuse impact the pleasure centers of the brain including the mesolimbic reward system. (Restak, Richard, MD. The Secret Life of the Brain. Washington D.C.: The Dana Press and Joseph Henry Press, 2001, p 82)

The pain pleasure center in the limbic area transfers information (e.g., opiate bliss) to the frontal cortex. It is only at this point that conscious ideas are formed about what is being felt. The experience itself occurs at a preconscious, physiological level. (Pert, Candace, PhD. Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind (audiocassettes). CO: Sounds True, 2000)

We all "train our own brain" at some level every time we develop a habit. Now Psychologist Anna Rose Childress, Jeremy Magland, and their colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania have used a combination of brain-scanning and feedback techniques to train subjects to move a cursor up and down with their thoughts. The subjects could perform this task after just five minutes of training. Earlier studies have shown that people can learn to consciously control their brain activity if they're shown their brain activity data in real time—a technique called real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Using this technology people have learned to control chronic pain and depression. Similar feedback methods may be able to help drug users kick their addictions. And just imagine what people could do in terms of creating positive habits if they decided to get on board? (Source)

Bulimia is believed to affect 4% - 5% of college women but only 1 in 300 men. (Pease, Barbara and Allan. Why Men Don’t Have a clue and Women Always Need More Shoes. NY: Broadway Books, 2004, p xiii)

Caffeine is addictive and it is easy to become dependent on it. Withdrawal symptoms include headache, fatigue, lethargy, mood changes, muscle pain, stiffness, flu-like feelings, nausea, and cravings for caffeine. (Carper, Jean. Your Miracle Brain. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2000, pp 178-190)

Carbohydrate addicts may gravitate toward different foods at any given stage in the addictive process, Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3. By changing number of times per day carbohydrates are ingested, the individual can reduce cravings and increase the body’s tendency to lose weight. (Keller, Rachael F., PhD, and Richard F. Heller. The Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet. NY: A Signet Book, 1991, pp. 40-47, 66-70)

Catharsis can be addicting (because of the molecules that are released in the process). (Pert, Candace, PhD. Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind (audiocassettes). CO: Sounds True, 2000)

Refer to Cellular Memory (Epigenetics) for additional information.

Dopamine is the critical neurotransmitter for reward. Cocaine administration increases metabolism in the substantia nigra (SN), which can explain the altered motor function seen in cocaine-using subjects. However, cocaine is even more active in the dopaminergic neurons of the ventral tegmental area (VTA) than the substantia nigra. (Joan M. Lakoski, Joan M., et al. Cocaine. Telford Press, 1991.)

Cocaine impacts the human brain in several ways, one of which involves the inhibition of dopamine reuptake. Interference with dopamine reuptake explains cocaine's addictive properties, as dopamine is the critical neurotransmitter for reward. (Heikkila, R E; et al. Motor activity and rotational behavior after analogs of cocaine: correlation with dopamine uptake blockade. Commun Psychopharmacol 3 (5): 285–90. 1979.)

Studies: Cocaine-exposed babies show signs of addiction at birth. As with prenatal exposure to alcohol, these babies have a lower birth weight, are shorter, and have a smaller head. They cry, often piercingly, shake, show erratic sleep-wake cycles, have trouble feeding, and are difficult to comfort. (Karr-Morse, Robin, and Meredith S. Wiley. Ghosts from the Nursery, Tracing the Roots of Violence. NY: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1997, pp 72-73)

Refer to Substances and the Brain for additional information.

Refer to Communication and the Brain for additional information.

Refer to Video Games - Internet and the Brain for additional information.

Any pattern of emotion or behavior that is continually reinforced will become an automatic and conditioned response. What is not reinforced will eventually dissipate. (Robbins, Anthony. Awaken the Giant Within. NY: Fireside, 1991, pp 136-140)

Things don’t just happen. For every effect there is a cause. You don’t “get” a craving. You create it by the way you represents things to yourself. (Robbins, Anthony. Unlimited Power. NY: Fireside, 1986, pp 190-191)

The limbic system processes a stimulus from outside (e.g., sight of food) or inside (e.g., falling glucose levels), which creates an urge that registers consciously as desire. The cortex then instructs the body to do whatever is needed to achieve its desire. Circulating dopamine levels rise and create feelings of satisfaction. (Carter, Rita, Ed. Mapping the Mind. pp 63. CA: University of California Press, 1998.)

A craving can be triggered by exposure to drugs (that used to be used/abused), by a stressful event, and/or by an environmental cue associated with past drug taking. (Zickler, Patrick. Addictive Drugs and Stress. MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA NOTES, Vol 18, No 5, Dec 2003, pp 1, 6-7)

Study: There appears to be a male-female difference in selected key brain regions in relation to cocaine craving. Provides a helpful table listing 5 brain regions and differences between men and women. (Whitten, Lori. Men and Women may Process cocaine Cues Differently. MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA NOTES, Vol 19, No 4, Dec 2004, pp 4-5)

Whatever people link pain and/or pleasure with shapes their lives. People can override the brain’s pain and pleasure centers temporarily, but if they don’t deal with the root (eliminate the cause of the problem) it will likely resurface. (Robbins, Anthony. Awaken the Giant Within. pp 56-62. NY: Fireside, 1991.)

Avoid underestimating the power of human sexuality and the Internet. A large number of Interent addicts may also be sex and relationship addicts, as well. The Internet can be so sexually alluring that it becomes an easy way to fulfill their sexual desires. As with many addictive behaviors, there is a clear need for an increase in sexually stimulating material to achieve the same degree of satisfaction. Cybersex encounters may move on to actual in-person encounters. Regardless, spending a significant amount of time with another person outside of your primary relationship may end up breaching intimacy parameters in your actual relationship. Easy access makes sexual addictgion more probable online than through other mediums. The author provides ten steps to kick the cybersex habit. ( Greenfield, David N., PhD. Virtual Addiction. pp 86-120. CA:New Harbinger Publications, Inc, 1999.)

Refer to Sexual Behaviors (below).

Addiction can be defined as a behavior or substance on which you are dependent and this is painfully difficult to stop. When in an addiction cycle, the person’s ability to choose becomes significantly impaired. A variety of terms are typically used when speaking of addiction (e.g., abuse, dependency, impulse problem, compulsion). Abuse (as composed to addiction) could be defined as a repeated pattern of behavior or use without tolerance or pain (withdrawal) as a result of trying to stop. (Greenfield, David N., PhD. Virtual Addiction. pp 43-45. CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc, 1999.)

Addiction is an imbalance or unease within the body/mind. Typical characteristics of the addition-prone individual includes extreme anxiety, restlessness, insecurity, and reaching outside for satisfaction. (Padus, Emrika, et al. The Complete Guide to Your Emotions & Your Health. PA: Rodale Press, 1992, pp 273-276)

Denial is a hallmark of a person who is engaging in an addictive behavioral pattern but who hasn’t accepted that his/her behavior is outside of their control. This psychological defense mechanism allows the person to continue engaging in the behavior in spite of the obvious negative consequences in his/her life. To some extent or another, denial is present in all addictions and allows the individual to distort reality and ignore negative outcomes. (Greenfield, Daivid N., PhD. Virtual Addiction – Help for Netheads, Cyberfreaks, and Those Who Love Them. pp 23-25. CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc, 1999.)

Studies of biological basis of desire to take drugs: fluctuations in dopamine (brain chemical) levels in the nucleus accumbens. This can occur by drugs itself or by an encounter with someone/something associated with past drug-taking. (Zickler, Patrick. Acute Dopamine Surge May Erode Resolve to Abstain. MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA NOTES, Vol 19, No 1, April, 2004, pp 1, 6)

Drugs that increase dopamine, or events that produce a flood of it, speed up the brain clock and time may then seem to slow down. The individual may perceive he/she is thinking more clearly. (Carter, Rita. Exploring Consciousness. CA: University of California Press, 1998, pp 260-267)

Refer to Downshifting and the Brain for additional information.

Drug addiction is a brain disease, based on the power of substances to fool the brain into responding as it would to natural neurotransmitters. (Restak, Richard, MD. The Secret Life of the Brain. Washington D.C.: The Dana Press and Joseph Henry Press, 2001, p 82)

Study: evidence that at least some of the negative brain effects related to methamphetamine abuse may be reversible with 9-17 months abstinence. Describes technique using positron emission tomography (PET). Website: (Zickler, Patrick. . Long-Term Abstinence Brings Partial Recovery from Methamphetamine Damage. MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA NOTES, Vol 19, No 4, Dec 2004, pp 1, 6)

Drug addiction is caused by a chain of events that are similar to hunger. Lists examples of neurotransmitters that are impacted by a variety of drugs. (Carter, Rita. Mapping the Mind. CA: University of California Press, 1998, 69)

Summarizes the effects of substances on the brain (e.g., caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, opiates). (Greenfield, Susan, Con. Ed. Brain Power, Working out the Human Mind. Great Britain: Element books Limited, 1999, pp 90-94)

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), in the USA there are 47 million smokers, 8.2 million alcoholics, and 3.5 million illicit drug users. All three types of drugs stimulate production of dopamine in the pleasure centers of the brain. Levels of serotonin, GABA, and norepinephrine may also be increased. (Greenwood-Robinson, Maggie, PhD. 20/20 Thinking. NY: Avery, Putnam Special Markets, 2003, pp 287-290)

An extreme form of low gain (extraversion) is sensation seeking. Sensation seekers want more of everything and tend to: use recreational drugs (e.g., marijuana, amphetamines), smoke more cigarettes, prefer more intense taste experiences, engage more often in physically risky activities (e.g., parachuting, motorcycling, scuba diving, fire fighting). (Ornstein, Robert, PhD. The Roots of the Self – Unraveling the Mystery of Who we Are. NY: HarperCollins Publishing, 1995, p 57)

People can become addicted to food, or at least to eating. It can be difficult to change this habit because food can’t be completely eliminated (as can be done for cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs). (Bost, Brent W., MD, FACOG. Hurried Woman Syndrome. NY: Vantage Press, 2001, pp 90-91)

It can be a huge challenge to help people who are addicted to food or alcohol overcome a sense of despair when they lose the highs associated with the addictive behaviors. (Woodman, Marion. Addiction to Perfection: Toronto, Canada: Inner City Books, 1982, pp 24-30)

Studies at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization: Information stored in the activity patterns of cerebral cortex neurons is discarded at the surprisingly high rate of one bit per active neuron per second. The dynamics of the cerebral cortex are specifically tailored to the processing of brief snapshots of the outside world. The Göttingen-based researchers were able to calculate, for the first time, how quickly an activity pattern is lost through tiny changes; in other words, how it is forgotten. No wonder "practice makes perfect," and learning requires repetition. (Ref.: Physical Review Letters, 105, 268104, 2010).

Forgiveness is a gift to yourself, a way to stop harboring destructive feelings that sap health and happiness. It allows the body to turn down the manufacture of catabolic chemicals, and instructs the subconscious to banish negative feelings. Forgiveness has little to do with others and everything to do with you. (Fox, Arnold, MD, and Barry Fox, PhD. Wake Up! You’re Alive! FL: Health Communications, 1988, pp 102-107)

Bechara et al (1994) developed the Gambling Task as a diagnostic test of decision-making deficit in neurological populations. More recently, the gambling task has been used to explore implications of the somatic marker hypothesis, as well as to study suboptimal decision making in a variety of domains. Researchers examined relations among gambling task decision making, working memory (WM) load, and somatic markers in a modified version of the gambling task. Increased WM load produced by secondary tasks led to poorer gambling performance. Declines in gambling performance were associated with the absence of the affective reactions that anticipate choice outcomes and guide future decision making. Our experiments provide evidence that WM processes contribute to the development of somatic markers. If WM functioning is taxed, somatic markers may not develop, and decision making may thereby suffer. (Accessed 7-16. http://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/CABN.2.4.341)

The Variable Schedule of Reinforcement helps push people to keep gambling. Once they’ve gambled, been rewarded, and linked pleasure to the reward, the excitement and anticipation pushes them to go forward. When they haven’t won for awhile, often they have an even stronger sense that maybe this time they’ll win. (Robbins, Anthony. Awaken the Giant Within. NY: Fireside, 1991, pp 142-143)

Pathological gambling tends to resemble alcoholism (e.g., lack of impulse control that may be related to ADD). EEGs showed abnormality in alternating between right and left hemispheres and some reversals (e.g., left activated during nonverbals). (Bricklin, Mark, et al. Positive Living and Health. PA: Rodale Press, 1990, p 471)

What holds true for hard addictions holds true for soft ones, too (e.g., workaholism, perfectionism, procrastination, sugar, coffer, nicotine, unhealthy relationships). (Padus, Emrika, et al. The Complete Guide to Your Emotions & Your Health. PA: Rodale Press, 1992, pp 273-275

Most homosexual orientation develops during gestation. Patterns tend to be firmly in place by age 5. Discusses lack of success of change therapies (e.g., push bisexuals to confine behaviors to opposite sex only, or enforce celibacy, or push the individuals to attempt suicide). (Pease, Barbara and Allan. Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps. pp 171-186. NY:Broadway Books, 1998.)

The trauma of growing up gay in a world that is run primarily by straight men is deeply wounding in a unique and profound way. Straight men have other issues and struggles that are no less wounding, but they are quite different from those of a gay man. ( Downs, Alan, PhD. The Velvet Rage. Overcoming the Pain of Growing up Gay in a Straight Man’s World. pp 5-6. NY:Da Capo Press, 2005. 2006.)

Refer to Sexual Orientation and the Brain for additional information.

Humor can be useful in addiction therapy to help express negative emotions in a positive light and relieve feelings of despair and hopelessness. Humor doesn’t necessarily build self-esteem but an ability to laugh at oneself can be crucial in the basic recovery stages. (Greenwood-Robinson, Maggie, PhD. 20/20 Thinking. NY: Avery, Putnam Special Markets, 2003, pp 104-105)

Staring at a monitor can induce a form of hypnotic trance. This can occur to some extent while watching TV as well, although the hypnotic effect is probably heightened when sitting very close as with a computer monitor. Entering this trance-like state may contribute to distortion of time experienced by many users.( Greenfield, Daivid N., PhD. Virtual Addiction – Help for Netheads, Cyberfreaks, and Those Who Love Them. pp 36-37. CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc, 1999.)

The most similar multimedia stimulation to the Internet is gambling. Internet addictions and gambling have a lot in common. You never know what you’re going to experience when you log on or when you gamble. Gambling addictions are likely to be a combination of the social aspects along with increases in dopamine, adrenaline, and other neurochemicals. The dopamine provides a sense of exhilaration, although shortlived, and because it is intense and pleasurable, can become habit forming. The brain will repeat experiences that are pleasurable. Normal life can seem dull compared to the excitement of the addiction “hit,” especially if the brain is bored. ( Greenfield, Daivid N., PhD. Virtual Addiction – Help for Netheads, Cyberfreaks, and Those Who Love Them. pp 22 -23. CA:New Harbinger Publications, Inc, 1999.)

David N. Greenfield, PhD, is the author of one of the largest and most comprehensive surveys on internet addiction. He is also author of the book entitled Virtual Addiction. (ABC News: Chat with Dr. David Greenfield.)

Refer to Video Games - Internet and the Brain for additional information.

The most similar multimedia stimulation to the internet is gambling. Internet addictions and gambling have a lot in common. You never know what you’re going to experience when you log on or when you gamble. Gambling addictions are likely to be a combination of the social aspects along with increases in dopamine, adrenaline, and other neurochemicals. The dopamine provides a sense of exhilaration, although shortlived, and because it is intense and pleasurable, can become habit forming. The brain will repeat experiences that are pleasurable. Normal life can seem dull compared to the excitement of the addiction “hit,” especially if the brain is bored. (Greenfield, Daivid N., PhD. Virtual Addiction – Help for Netheads, Cyberfreaks, and Those Who Love Them. pp 22 -23. CA:New Harbinger Publications, Inc, 1999.)

Studies have shown that the average nonaddicted internet user spends about six hours per day. For the more than 6% of users who are addicted, the time spent averages nine plus hours per day. The author outlines seven critical signs of addiction to the Internet and provides an Internet Abuse Test. ( Greenfield, David N., PhD. Virtual Addiction. pp 50-61. CA:New Harbinger Publications, Inc, 1999.)

According to Dr. Orzack, a licensed clinical psychologist, founder and coordinator of McLean Hospital’s Computer Addiction Service and a member of the Harvard Medical school faculty, psychological and physical symptoms associated with addiction to computer/video games/internet use may include the following:

Psychological Symptoms

  • Having a sense of well-being or euphoria while at the computer
  • Inability to stop the activity
  • Craving more and more time at the computer
  • Neglect of family and friends
  • Feeling empty, depressed, irritable when not at the computer
  • Lying to employers and family about activities
  • Problems with school or job

Physical Symptoms

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Dry eyes
  • Migraine headaches
  • Backaches
  • Eating irregularities, such as skipping meals
  • Failure to attend to personal hygiene
  • Sleep disturbances, change in sleep pattern

(Orzack, Maressa Hecht, PhD)

Refer to Laughter and the Brain for additional information.

You can be addicted to being in love. We’re addicted because we get a psychological, physiologic and/or a social “lift” from our behavior. (Fox, Arnold, MD, and Barry Fox, PhD. Wake Up! You’re Alive! FL: Health Communications, 1988, pp 174-176)

Love addicts need love desperately but are also desperately afraid of it. There are more female than male love addicts. The females tend to fall in love with unattainable or totally inappropriate men who will hurt them. (Stump, Jane Barr, PhD. What’s the Difference? NY: William Morrow, 1985, p 120)

Love is addictive in the sense that many use erotic love as an attempt to fill a void or relieve the fear of loneliness. Lists 20 characteristics of addictive love. Intensity is often directly proportion to one’s sense of unmet childhood needs. (Schaeffer, Brenda. Is It Love Or Is It Addiction? CA: Harper & Row, 1987, pp 22, 38)

A person can become addicted to romantic love, as it affects parts of the same pathway as do drugs of abuse. Dopamine can trigger frantic efforts by a lover when the affair appears to be in jeopardy, as levels increase when the reward is delayed. (Fisher, Helen. The First Sex. NY: Random House, 1999, pp 53, 182)

Studies: marijuana dependence, like dependence on other addictive drugs, is associated with withdrawal symptoms (e. g., irritability, anger, depressed mood, headaches, restlessness, lack of appetite, cravings) that appear to be as severe as those associated with tobacco smoking. Website: (Zickler, Patrick, Staff Writer. Study Demonstrates that Marijuana Smokers Experience Significant Withdrawal. National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA NOTES, Volume 17, Number 3, pp 7-10)

Tobacco, marijuana, alcohol, cocaine are mind-altering substances that interfere with the body/mind’s ability to regulate its own moods. Chronic use will eventually cause the cells to stop manufacturing “feel-good” peptides, leading to a craving for higher doses of the artificial stimulant. (Pert, Candace, PhD. Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind (audiocassettes). CO: Sounds True, 2000)

Virtually everything we do is to change the way we feel…Everything we do in life is either out of a need to avoid pain or a desire to gain pleasure. (Robbins, Anthony. Awaken the Giant Within. NY: Fireside, 1991, pp 26, 53-55.)

An obsession (e.g., psychic energy is focused in one area of the personality) is the main symptom of the pursuit of perfection. (Woodman, Marion. Addiction to Perfection. pp 51-52. Canada: Inner City Books, 1982.)

It is no coincidence that a wealthy and privileged society is so prone to addictive behaivors...when pleasure becomes an obsession, the result is addiction. If a source ofpleasure is truly fullfilling, there is a natural cycle that starts with desire and ends with satiation. With addictive behaviors, addiction never closes the cycle.s (Chopra, Deepak, PhD. How to Know God. pp 82. NY: Three Rivers Press, 2001.)

Opiate receptors are densest in the frontal lobes of the cerebral cortex of the human brain, although they occur in every other part of the body. There is also a dense concentration in the limbic system (pain/pleasure center). (Pert, Candace, PhD. Molecules of Emotion. NY: Scribner, 1997, pp 123, 134-135)

When morphine or opium enters the body, its molecules are attracted to opiate receptors on cell surfaces. The opiate and receptor molecules bind together, transferring information into the cell. The cell responds by experiencing bliss. (Pert, Candace, PhD. Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind (audiocassettes). CO: Sounds True, 2000)

Patriarchal cultures emphasize perfection and specialization. Consequently, many people in those cultures, especially unhappy females, exhibit addictive behaviors with food, alcohol, cleaning, perfectionism, etc. (Woodman, Marion. Addiction to Perfection: The Still Unravished Bride. pp 8-10. Canada: Inner City Books, 1982, pp 8-10)

It's no coincidence that a wealthy and privileged society is so prone to addictive behaviors. When pleasure becomes obsessive, the result is addiction. If a source of pleasure is truly fulfilling, there is a natural cycle that starts with desire and ends with satiation. Addiction never closes the cycle. (Chopra, Deepak. How to Know God. pp 82. NY: Three Rivers Press, 2001.)

Pornography addiction is defined, as a dependence upon pronography characterized by obsessive viewing, reading, and thinking about pornography and sexual themes to the detriment of other areas of life. Pornography addiction is diagnosed when an individual engages in the overuse or abuse of pornography to the extent that they experience negative consequences. On August 15, 2011 the American Society of Addiction Medicine issued a public statement defining all addiction (including sexual behavior addiction) in terms of brain changes. "Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry." (American Society of Addiction Medicine. 2011. Public Policy Statement: Definition of Addiction. (Source)

Dr. Patrick Carnes, a pioneer in sexual addiction research, has outlined four core beliefs common in most sexual addicts. They usually result from growing up in a dysfunctional family, especially one with rigid rules, little warmth and affirmation, abandonment, and sexual or emotional abuse. The core beliefs are the following: 1) I am basically a bad, unworthy person, 2) No one would love me as I am, 3) My needs are never going to be met if I have to depend upon others, 4) Sex is my most important need. The root of sexual addiction usually begins in childhood. According to Carnes, when a child's exploration of sexuality goes beyond discovery to routine self-comforting because of the lack of human care, there is potential for addiction. Sex becomes confused with comforting and nurturing.(Carnes, Patrick. Out of the shadows: understanding sexual addiction, pp 102, 167-168. MN: Hazelden, 2001.)

More than simple abstinence is required to achieve real recovery from addictive behaviors. Healthy thought patterns must be adopted and pathological thoughts systems relinquished. (Twerski, Abraham, MD. Addictive Thinking. CA: Harper & Row, 1990, pp 79-80)

Addictions can be reversed with time and patience. When tempted to light a cigarette or a joint, ask yourself what you are feeling at that moment. Try to identify the discomfort that the drug typically masks. Encouraging a free flow of emotions will lessen the need for an external boost and reinforce your body’s ability to get high all by itself. (Pert, Candace, PhD. Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind (audiocassettes). CO: Sounds True, 2000)

Summarizes a variety of therapies to help recover from addictive behaviors. Lists pharmacological treatments for substance abuse. (Greenwood-Robinson, Maggie, PhD. 20/20 Thinking. NY: Avery, Putnam Special Markets, 2003, pp 287-305)

The meaning of an event depends upon the “frame” in which it is perceived. Change the frame and the meaning changes, along with responses and behaviors. NOTE: reframing doesn’t work well with people who are severely dissociated (e.g., alcoholics, drug addicts, manic-depressives, multiple personalities, some smokers, some overeaters). (Bandler, Richard, and John Grinder. Reframing. UT: Real People Press, 1982, pp 1-2, 6-8. 15)

Changes to nerve cells in the brain can impact a person’s susceptibility to relapse related to drug taking. (Zickler, Patrick. Addictive Drugs and Stress. MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA NOTES, Vol 18, No 5, Dec 2003, pp 1, 6-7)

Studies at UC San Francisco: Addiction is caused by more than the pharmacological effects of a given drug, Drug addiction is a life-long disease. Although drug-taking behaviors may be absent, the ‘memory’ makes relapse not only possible but likely. (Science News. Cocaine Addiction Linked To Voluntary Drug Use And Cellular Memory, Study Shows. 2008, Article)

The less good or playful a relationship feels, the more it stimulates an appetite for external distractions (including alcohol, drugs, and food). (Goldberg, Herb, PhD. The New Male-Female Relationship. NY: Signet Books, 1983, p 187)

Describes benefits of using the Relaxation Responses in decreased drug use (e.g., narcotics, nicotine, hard liquor, marijuana, amphetamines, barbiturates, hallucinogens). (Benson, Herbert, MD, with Miriam Z. Klipper. The Relaxation Response. NY: Avon Books, 1975, pp 149-157)

Studies by Michael Merzenich of UCSF: the more a person indulges in any pattern of behavior the stronger that pattern becomes. (Robbins, Anthony. Awaken the Giant Within. NY: Fireside, 1991, pp 117-120)

Study: individuals who replaced addictive behaviors with a new alternative were much more successful long term than those who used external or internal pressure. And those who also rehearsed it with emotional intensity were the most successful. (Robbins, Anthony. Awaken the Giant Within. NY: Fireside, 1991, pp 136-140)

Your habitual attitudes form neural circuits in the brain. If you choose to maintain a specific attitude, the brain can literally rewire itself to facilitate that attitude. (Childre, Doc and Howard Martin. The HeartMath Solution. CA: Harper SF, 1999, pp 195-196)

Risk addicts take rash, rather than calculated risk. Typical profile: a male who is immature, impulsive, aggressive, resents authority, and thinks he is above ordinary mortals. (Bricklin, Mark, et al. Positive Living and Health. PA: Rodale Press, 1990, pp 406-408)

Studies (genetic research and brain imaging): Social factors are more important in initial drug experimentation/use. Genetics, personality and certain mental disorders (e.g., untreated ADHD, conduct disorder, depressions, anxiety) are more important determinants in whether an adolescent moves from drug use to abuse/addiction. (Why are Some People More Likely to Become Addicted to Drugs? MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA NOTES, Vol 19, No 1, April, 2004, p S6)

Like gambling, sex can also be addictive in many respects. (Quartz, Steven R., PhD, and Terrence J. Sejnowski PhD. Liars, Lovers, and Heroes. NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2002, p 147)

A sex addict is a person who has developed an addiction to the hormonal cocktail (e.g., serotonin, dopamine, phenylethylamine, norepinephrine) released during the infatuation stage, and who is trying to sustain a permanent high. (Pease, Barbara and Allan. Why Men Don’t Have a Clue and Women Always Need More Shoes. NY: Broadway Books, 2004, pp 226-230)

The excitement of sex is much like the high caused by a drug. It can include the product of fantasy, reaching for forbidden fruit, working to “please” the other, overcoming challenge and rejection, and gaining reassurance of being loved. (Goldberg, Herb, PhD. The New Male-Female Relationship. NY: Signet Books, 1983, pp 233-234)

Males = about 8% are addicted to sex. Females – less than 3%. (Pease, Barbara and Allan. Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps. pp 203. NY:Broadway Books, 1998.)

Data suggest that there is a continuum of online sexual behavior that appears to be significantly higher for those who are addicted to the Internet. For example, when comparing Internet addicted versus nonaddicted percentages, there appears to be a progression of sexual behavior from online to real-time:

Online Behaviors
Nonaddicted Person
Addicted Person
Flirting
20%
57%
Explicit sex-talk
9%
38%
Masturbation
12%
37%
Online affair
14%
42%
Phone contact
18%
50%
Real-time sex
13%
31%

(Greenfield, David N., PhD. Virtual Addiction. pp 179-180. CA:New Harbinger Publications, Inc, 1999.)

Refer to Sexuality and the Human Brain for additional information.

The internet is a perfect medium for selling which makes it relatively easy to develop behaviors related to compulsive shopping. Interacting with two powerful mood-enhancers like the Internet and shopping creates a formidable experience fo anyone who may be prone to becoming addicgted to either one. ( Greenfield, David N., PhD. Virtual Addiction. pp 140-150. CA:New Harbinger Publications, Inc, 1999.)

Study: Among children who had smoked at least once, there was a 20% higher risk of addiction if mothers had smoked up to a pack per day while pregnant, and a 60% increased risk if mothers had smoked a pack a day or more. (Mann, Arnold. Smoking Exposure In Utero Increases Risk of Later Addiction. MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA NOTES, Vol 19, No 4, Dec 2004, pp 9-10)

Nicotine is very addictive – every effort should be made by pregnant mother to avoid smoking during pregnancy (for a smarter child with higher potential). The fewer cigarettes, the lesser the effects to the developing fetal brain. (Diamond, Marian, PhD, and Janet Hopson. Magic Trees of the Mind. NY: A Dutton Book 1998, pp 78-80)

Smoking can be a difficult habit to change and you must want to quit in order to do it. Four types of smokers: habit smoker, positive affect smoker, negative affect smoker, physical or psychological addicted smoker. (Bricklin, Mark, et al. Positive Living and Health. PA: Rodale Press, 1990, pp 290-292)

Studies. There appears to be an interaction between stress and the start of drug use and/or in relapse (e.g., reawakening a learned behavior). Stress can induce long term potentiation in cells that release dopamine in the VTA (ventral tegmental area) of the brain. (Zickler, Patrick. Addictive Drugs and Stress. MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA NOTES, Vol 18, No 5, Dec 2003, pp 1, 6-7)

Refer to Stress and the Brain for additional information.

Refer to Substances and the Brain for additional information.

Television viewing is potentially addictive. Provides statistics about harmful effects that can weaken brain power (e.g., bypasses filtering functions of the frontal lobes). (Nedley, Neil, MD. Proof Positive. Published by Neil Nedley, Quality Books, Inc. 1998, 1999, pp 282-290)

Refer to Television - Movies and the Brain for additional information.

Dr. Daniel Amen has recommended to parents that children spend no more than 30 minutes a day playing video games. This is because (according to brain imaging studeis), video games impact the same area of the brain as cocaine and methamphetamine. When you play video games your brain really likes it because the process increases the amount of dopamine being released in the brain. "When you try to take those games away from them )the kids), they get really upset. In fact, some even go through withdrawal symptoms when they aren’t allowed to play.) According to Dr. Amen, this is because playing video games release much dopamine that there isn’t enough of the chemical available for the little things in life. Other activities and relationships that would normally make your children happy leave them feeling nothing at all. (Amen, Daniel, MD)

Refer to Video Games - Internet and the Brain for additional information.

For many Americans, the Internet has the potential to become an addiction that wreaks havoc at home, work, school, and in real-life relationships. There is both promise and peril in cyberspace (e.g., an increasing number of couples seeking marriage counseling from Greenfield were suffering from cyberspace-related problems). Provides strategies to help users maintain a balanced life, both on-line and off. (Greenfield, David N., PhD. Virtual Addiction: Help for Netheads, Cyberfreaks, and Those Who Love Them. CA: New Harbinger Publications, 1999.)

Mental rehearsal activates the same neural circuitry as does the real activity. (Goleman, Daniel. The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights. pp 68-70. MA: More Than Sound, 2011)

Refer to Visualizing and the Brain for additional information

Many phobias, anxieties, and obsessions can develop during the withdrawal phase of addiction. Brain allergies or inflammations in specific areas of the central nervous system can cause emotional reactions from minor to psychotic proportions. (Appleton, Nancy, PhD. Lick the Sugar Habit. NY: Avery Penguin Putnam, 1996, pp 44-50)

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