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Addiction changes the brain and the way it works.
Abusing drugs and alcohol can create a lethal confusion in brain circuitry by causing a healthy brain chemistry to go critically out of balance. Your recovery (sobriety) is compromised when you lack the high quality nutrition needed to heal your brain and body. Neurotransmitters necessary for normal brain function are converted from essential nutrientswater, energy, amino acids (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine), essential fatty acids (linoleic and α-linolenic acids), vitamins (ascorbic acid, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, pantothenic acid, folic acid, biotin, and vitamin B-12), minerals (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron), trace minerals (zinc, copper, manganese, iodine, selenium, molybdenum, and chromium), electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and chloride), and ultratrace minerals.

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What Addiction is and how it works.
Addiction is a primary, chronic brain disease that affects brain reward/pleasure, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. Without treatment and engagement in recovery addiction can result in disability or premature death. Addiction is characterized by the inability to consistently abstain; cravings; a dysfunctional emotional response, and a diminished recognition of significant problems with behavior and interpersonal relationships. Like other chronic diseases, Addiction can involve cycles of relapse and death if left untreated. The reward/pleasure center involving several parts of the brain: the nucleus accumbens, the prefrontal cortex, and the ventral tegmental area (VTA) are affected. In a healthy brain, these parts communicate information via a process called neurotransmission. One of these neurotransmitters called dopamine is the tyrant that causes drugs and alcohol to enslave you. A stimulus such as food or sex sends a message to the VTA. In response the VTA releases a dose of dopamine. You experience the sensation of reward/pleasure, and dopamine tells you that you want to repeat this behavior again. Drug and alcohol abuse artificially stimulate the brain into creating a dopamine-rich environment that makes you want do it again, and again. Dopamine plays a central role in Addiction because it increases cravings. Once addicted, anything associated with the increase of dopamine causes the brain to demand more and more.

Addiction hijacks the brain’s reward system.

Dependence, tolerance, and withdrawal are progressive in substance abuse disorders. Repeated overstimulation eventually leads to a numbed response. Over time the VTA no longer fires neurons, decreasing the supply of dopamine and triggering cravings. As tolerance increases, the brain demands more stimulation to produce the same effect. Simultaneously the brain is learning to embed associations (triggers) of the reward/pleasure event. Inhibitions weaken and self-control is overridden. Addiction is established.

The bad news – few addicts recognize when they have crossed the line. The good news – you can rebuild your life.


A diagnosis of addiction, involving nicotine, alcohol and other drugs, is defined as having more than 2 symptoms over a one year period.
Severity of disease: Mild (2-3) Moderate (4-5) Severe (>6)

  • Taking more of the substance for a longer period than intended.
  • Ongoing desire or unsuccessful attempts to reduce use
  • Great deal of time spent to obtain, use, or recover from use
  • Craving the substance
  • Failing to fulfill obligations at work, home or school as a result of continued use
  • Continued use despite ongoing physical or mental problems caused or worsened by use
  • Devolving tolerance (feeling less effect from the substance with continued use)
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after reducing use (Symptoms vary by substance)

    Source: Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) -5

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