What we put into our bodies matters. We understand that instinctively from the time that we are very young. When we’re through teething and beginning to understand what it means to eat, we quickly get picky, rejecting strange-tasting foods and trying to eat the most delicious ones. As we grow older, our sense of the power of these things grows. Many of us spend our adult lives trying to fight the urge to eat processed foods, opting instead for whole foods and natural supplements, all because we know that what we put in our bodies matters.
And we know that just as natural, healthy foods can make a huge difference for the better, other substances can make a huge difference for the worse. Even naturally occurring things can be terrible for us – hemlock, for instance, will kill us.
Sometimes, the most powerful substances are also the most insidious. Not every deadly substance will kill us outright, as hemlock does. Others will weave their way into the fabric of our lives, bringing us under their control and forcing their way deeper and deeper into our bodies, minds, and identities.
Addictive substances and their terrifying power
It’s not always easy to understand addiction, but it helps to start from this perspective of just how powerful substances can be in our bodies. We understand the benefits of healthy foods and the immediate dangers of poisons. When we talk about addictive substances, we’re talking about a slow-acting, manipulative sort of poison.
Substances like alcohol, heroin, and other types of physiologically addictive drugs affect our bodies profoundly when we let them in. They often act on receptors and other parts of our brain chemistry, inhibiting or over-stimulating certain parts of our nervous system. This makes us feel a certain way – good, usually, which is why these substances are so easy to start using. Then the feeling leaves us.
Worse still, our brains can adapt. Seeing too much of something or too little of it may trigger our brains to turn receptors on and off. So flooding our brain with a good feeling for a short time can make us feel far worse when the drug is gone – our brain, thinking it had (for instance) enough dopamine or enough dopamine receptors, will cut back. And without the artificial boost, we don’t have that great feeling. In fact, we’ll have to take even more of the addictive substance next time to get the same great feeling, because our brain is doing less to help out.
The result is a vicious and powerful cycle of addiction. These addictive substances are every bit as powerful as the poisons that hurt us and the health foods that help us. Though their effects are drawn out over weeks, months, and years, their end-game is the same as any poison: they aim to kill us. And they can.
Fighting the power of addiction
It’s vital for addicts and their loved ones to understand just how powerful this physiological process is. In fact, the addict is essentially powerless before it. Beating an addiction is largely a physical challenge, not merely a mental one. That’s why it’s so important to share the burden of beating an addiction with professionals and support groups.
Rehab facilities can help addicts by isolating them from the source of their addiction while supporting them in their struggle. From luxury facilities like Florida’s Beachside Rehab to more affordable options all around the country, these places are powerful tools that addicts can put in their corner. Similarly, groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs can provide vital support to addicts who might not succeed on their own.
Addictive substances have terrifying power, and addicts usually can’t beat them on their own. But with the help of professionals and support groups, a brighter future is possible. Understanding the power of addictive substances isn’t about losing hope – it’s about understanding the challenge and using the proper tools to secure a happy, substance-free future.