Unfortunately, the illness is often portrayed as a choice — a misunderstanding that can further stigmatize people who struggle with substance use and addiction.
What is addiction?
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) defines addiction as the presence of four things: cravings, loss of control of amount or frequency of use, compulsion to use and use despite the consequences.
The exact science remains unclear, but doctors believe there are a region and a circuit in the human brain “listening for when we engage in highly rewarding events,” said Hellemans.
Most addictive substances target this system.
“Whether you shoot heroin or drink alcohol, smoke nicotine or cannabis, they all start to activate that pathway,” Hellemans said. “It translates to us feeling good.”
In people who develop addiction, doctors believe their “baseline reward pathway activation” is low.
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