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Escapism - addiction is a learned response

There are a number of reasons as to why individuals experiment with illegal substances.

With drug and alcohol abuse becoming more prevalent in South Africa, it is important for us to start identifying and addressing the key issues and causes of alcohol and drug addiction.

Generally speaking individuals typically take drugs either to experiment with feeling high or altered consciousness or as a form of escapism.

Drugs allow us to tweak the motivation and pleasure pathways of our brain, enabling us to create a false, short-lived abbreviated form of happiness.

The chemical structure of the drug is commonly found to resemble our neurotransmitters, which enables them to be recognised and accepted by our neurons allowing them to alter our standard brain messages.

Almost all illicit and legal drugs that are abused directly or indirectly spike our dopamine levels, our pleasure and motivation zones are excited which disrupts the normal communication between our neurons.

Our brains are extremely systematic and when we are enjoying something delicious or being stimulated sexually our dopamine levels are increased, this process has developed and evolved since the beginning of mankind as a form of rewards process needed for our survival.

However by falsely stimulating and exciting our dopamine levels by taking drugs we end up flooding our brains with dopamine, which is what creates the gratifying and pleasurable feeling addicts crave. The normalisation of these levels after withdrawal of the drug is what commonly causes the big ‘downer’ after cessation.

Escapism is a common reason as to why individuals abuse drugs, escaping their home situations, abusive or negative relationships, stressful work situations, lack of excitement or joy in their lives.

There are hundreds of reasons, none of which are any less important than any other. These stressors can then become constant triggers (learned responses) to the abusive behaviour becoming an addictive habit, psychologically and physically.

Approaching substance abuse holistically is vital in an individual’s recovery, dealing with the core sometimes hidden issues allows the individual to identify why and what drove them to seeking false pleasures and empty joy through drugs and/ or alcohol abuse.

At Step Away we use the holistic approach as a key mechanism at out drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre, enabling our patients to identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities available to them and the things that threaten their recovery.

Escapism is a common reason for alcohol and drug abuse, this type of distraction can entice just about anyone facing difficult times and tough situations.

It’s important for individuals to know that there is hope in dark times and even through substances paint a prettier picture of instant gratification and escapism their false reality will soon betray you.

There is always a better answer than having a drink, there is always a better choice than taking a drug, they might not be the easiest or the most pleasant but they are there.

With Step Away you can begin a new life free from drug or alcohol abuse one day at a time.


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