The Nature of Addiction and Substance Abuse

Addiction can be social but in most cases it is genetic.  Addition in the brain compels an individual to become physically dependent upon the substance.  This is by far a stronger addiction than social and peer influences.  The individual actually becomes addicted in the brain to the new substance.  It is hard to say who or who will not become addicted to a particular drug, based on the chemical makeup of the drug itself and also the genetic makeup of the individual.  This is why it is critical to avoid addicting substances.  Please also review AIHCP’s Substance Abuse Practitioner Program if you wish to help others face addiction.

The process of addiction starts in the brain. Please also review AIHCP’s Substance Abuse Practitioner Program and see if it meets your professional goals


The article, “The Science of Drug Use: How Substance Use Can Lead to Addiction” by Simbiat Bakare looks closer at the process of addiction within the brain and its neuro transmitters.  He states,

“Substances like marijuana, heroin, amphetamine, and cocaine tap into the brain system, causing the neurons to release large amounts of natural neurotransmitters which are chemical brain messengers that amplify a user’s craving for hard drugs. With drug users indulging their cravings, the brain adapts to the surge in dopamine and other neurotransmitters by reducing the number of receptors, thus making the user take a higher dosage of drugs to get the desired euphoria.”

“The Science of Drug Use: How Substance Use Can Lead to Addiction”. Simbiat Bakare. June 15th, 2022. NET.

To read the entire article, please click here


Addiction is a state of compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences. It is a brain disorder characterized by compulsive engagement in activities that are intrinsically rewarding (e.g., eating, sex, gambling) and/or by compulsive engagement in activities that are extrinsically rewarding (e.g., working, caring for others). The former group of activities is typically referred to as natural rewards, while the latter group is typically referred to as conditioned rewards.  Addiction is a complex condition that is characterized by compulsive drug-seeking behavior and continued use despite harmful consequences. Addiction is caused by a variety of factors, including genetic predisposition, social environment, and psychological factors.  The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, but repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is a term used to describe the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs. The term encompasses a range of activities, from binge drinking and occasional drug use to addiction and dependence. Substance abuse is a serious public health problem. It is estimated that one in four adults in the United States has engaged in some form of substance abuse at some point in their lives.

Substance abuse is the overindulgence in or dependence on a psychoactive substance, especially alcohol or drugs. Though often associated with illegal drugs, alcohol and prescription medication can be just as addictive and damaging. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to.

Addiction and the Brain

The brain’s job is to constantly receive information from the body and decide what to do with it. The brain also has to keep track of what is going on around us in our environment.
Addiction occurs when drugs or alcohol change the way the brain works.  There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that addiction is, at least in part, a brain disease. This is because addiction appears to change the structure and function of the brain, which then leads to changes in behavior. These changes in the brain can be long-lasting and can lead to the harmful behaviors seen in people with addiction.

The behaviors that stem from brain issues due to addiction cause an individual to feel a sense of compulsion or obsession with a particular activity. These behaviors can be harmful to the individual’s health and well-being, but they may continue to engage in them despite the negative consequences. There are many different types of addictive behaviors, but some common ones include substance abuse, gambling, sex, and shopping.


In conclusion, addiction is a serious problem that affects millions of people worldwide. It is a complex disease that changes the brain in ways that make it difficult for people to control their impulses and make healthy choices. While there is no easy solution, treatment can help people recover from addiction and lead fulfilling lives.

Addiction and recovery are difficult topics to discuss. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to addiction, and recovery is a lifelong process. However, there is hope for those struggling with addiction, and many resources available to help them on their journey to recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please reach out for help.

Please also review AIHCP’s Substance Abuse Practitioner Program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Substance Abuse Counseling.   Those who become certified can offer aid to those affected by addiction.  Many certified members work in lower tier positions under the guidance of a licensed professional at addiction clinics or addiction services.  Licensed social workers and licensed counselors benefit from earning a certification to enhance their resume and practice in helping others deal with the dangers of addiction.


Additional Resources

“Neurocircuitry of Addiction”.George F Koob & Nora D Volkow. Neuropsychopharmacology volume 35pages217–238 (2010).  Access here

“What is addiction?”. Harvard Health Blog.  September 12th, 2021. Harvard Health Publishing. Access here

“What is addiction?”. Alyssa Peckham. June 3rd, 2021. MedicalNewsToday.  Access here

“What Is Addiction?”. Psychology Today Staff. Psychology Today. Access here

“What causes addiction?”. Adam Felman.  November 2nd, 2018. MedicalNewsToday. Access here

“Biology of Addiction”. October 2015. News In Health.  Access here