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As many as one in four people in the general population may suffer from drug, alcohol, gambling addiction or indulge in other compulsive behaviours like overeating. Addiction breaks up families, damages communities and destroys lives. Despite this, there is still a great deal of misunderstanding about addiction what it is, who it affects, and how one can get help and support.
An addiction is a habit that has spiraled out of control. It is a harmful, recurring compulsion to engage in a particular activity such as drug taking, drinking, smoking, gambling, restricting food intake, over eating (with or without purging) and compulsive sexual activity. An addict engages in the activity to which he is addicted not to induce pleasure but to relieve the anxiety of withdrawal. In essence the abused substance activates reward circuits in the brain. The release of the ‘feel-good’ hormone Dopamine in these ‘reward circuits’ suppresses the prefrontal cortex the part of the brain which is used to exercise judgment (and hence terminate alcohol or drug use). This explains why the addicted person continues to abuse the substance despite the negative consequences.