People can become addicted to anything – chocolate, work, sex, gambling, food, drugs, alcohol, caffeine, relationships, gardening, you name it. If it’s a source of pleasure, it’s a possible form of addiction.

What triggers the development of an addiction is the pleasure that one receives from it. The activation of the brain’s reward system is the key to addiction and when that pleasure becomes the sole focus of one’s life to the exclusion and detriment of other life-activities, an addiction has formed. In this way, any pleasurable behavior can lead to having the same high or rush in the brain, similar to the use of drugs.

Despite pointing out that virtually anything pleasurable can become an addiction, the following will examine the five most common addictions to substances.

Sugar: Sugar is the most widespread and unrecognized addiction. It is a substance that is in a wide variety of foods, even those that one might not think would include sugar. Although sugar seems relatively innocent, it is also a substance that can affect one’s energy level and mood. Those who are addicted to alcohol and caffeine are usually addicted to sugar as well. One of the best ways to end an addiction to sugar is to work with a nutritionist. He or she can work with your particular nutritional needs and provide alternatives to sugar. Sometimes, for instance, people have a craving for sugar or chocolate when they are actually in need of protein. This sort of information combined with working with your particular needs can facilitate ending an addiction to sugar.

Caffeine: This psychoactive substance stimulates the central nervous system and can increase alertness and levels of energy. There are millions of Americans, for example, who take this stimulant each morning before work by having their regular dose of coffee. Taken in large amounts, caffeine can actually become deadly. And over time, this substance slowly weakens the immune system. This addiction can also be put to an end by working with a nutritionist. If you feel that your addiction to caffeine is not all that serious, you might simply consider other forms of drinks that are sugar and caffeine free, such as water and certain types of teas.

Nicotine: A study found that nicotine receptors in the brain actually improved mood in certain types of depression. At the same time, this study also found that those who smoke are more likely to have symptoms of depression than those who do not. Depression is associated with an increased risk for smoking, and research has found that smoking is often a behavior that depressed adults engage in as a way to self-medicate. Learning this can perhaps encourage adults to find another, healthier way to feel better. However, at this time, nicotine remains to be a highly addictive substance. It is approximately 1000 people die from nicotine-related illnesses every day, including lung cancer. Today, there are many ways to end an addiction to nicotine, including using patches, gum, and inhalers.

Alcohol: According to a survey done in 1990, alcohol was the fourth most common addiction in the United States. Although this might have changed since 1990, alcohol remains to be a source of addiction for millions of Americans. Alcohol, when consumed, distorts perception and judgment and can affect an individual’s mood. It can also slow down one’s reaction time, making it dangerous to drink before getting behind the wheel or operating other forms of machinery. Almost every case of alcohol addiction requires mental health treatment, including addiction treatment, detox, residential treatment, behavioral therapy, and more. If you’re struggling with an alcohol addiction, contact a local therapist or a local addiction treatment center.

Opiates: Opioids are the main activating drug found in painkillers as well as in the dangerous drug – heroin. Opioids are synthesized from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seedpod of the Asian poppy plant. It can be injected or inhaled by snorting or sniffing or smoking it. Close to half of the nation’s 38,329 drug overdose deaths in 2010 involved painkillers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As with an alcohol addiction, an addiction to opiates also requires addiction treatment, detox, residential treatment, and behavioral therapy. If you’re struggling with an opiate addiction, contact a mental health professional today. Doing so can save your life!

Addiction is a serious psychological and physical illness that requires medical and psychological care. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, the best thing you can do is get professional help.

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