Addictive habit without substances

26.11.2020

The concept of "addiction" usually goes hand in hand with that of "drug", but in practice, this is not the case. There are addictions in which the consumption of any addictive substance is not involved, and in fact, they are not statistically rare cases.

The large number of people who have become addicted to gambling and spend many hours a week betting their money and even going into debt to keep trying their luck is, for example, a sign that this type of disorder does not depend on our brain comes into contact with certain molecules from outside.

In this article we will explore the issue of non-chemical addictions, seeing what happens in the body and mind of the human being when they take control of the person.

What is a non-chemical addiction?

As we have advanced, a non-chemical addiction is one that is not based on dependence on the consumption of a certain psychoactive substance with addictive potential. This means that although it can occur together with the consumption of drugs that can generate addiction, the addiction that is being suffered does not arise from dependence on these, but from a pattern of behaviors and interaction with the environment learned in a way conscious or unconscious.

Consider, for example, the person who goes to the casino every week to gamble a good part of his saved money and who, once there, has a few drinks: addiction has to do with the habit of participating in games of chance and exposing oneself to an environment that facilitates these types of behaviors, not in the consumption of alcohol itself. On the other hand, non-chemical addictions can generate the same degree of dependence that we find in drug addiction, although the triggering event is another and is a little less harmful to the body in the short term, because there is no molecule that interacts in an abnormal way with the neurons of our nervous system. However, in the medium and long term, non-chemical addictions have a level of danger comparable to drug addiction.

In addition, since its appearance does not go hand in hand with the action of consuming products that are already considered dangerous or with risks, for many people non-chemical addictions may seem harmless, since the idea that a drug can develop is not very intuitive. addiction without introducing a substance into the body. This makes it more difficult to realize that you have a problem.

How are addictions without substance triggered?

These are the elements that participate in the appearance of a non-chemical addiction.

1. A system of immediate incentives

Non-chemical addictions are always based on the promise of pleasant sensations that could occur in a matter of seconds or a few minutes. In this way, the person is kept "hooked" on the activity on which they depend more and more.

2. The experience of fear of loss is common

Combined with the promise of well-being, the fear of missing out on these kinds of experiences appears. This often adds to loss aversion: the person does not want to "waste" the efforts made up to that point.

For example, in those who develop pathological gambling, what is known as the gambler's fallacy is common; They have the impression that since they have lost for many games, the game in which they will win is about to fall, although the statistics reveal that this is a wrong conclusion: the chances of winning or losing are the same in each game, or at least not they depend on the previous results.

In the same way, those who develop addiction to certain video games are afraid that if they turn off the computer or the game console they will be missing memorable games that would have been possible thanks to having spent hours playing and accumulating requirements to get there.

3. Changes occur in the person's nervous system

Although molecules from outside the body do not come into play in this type of addiction and that have psychoactive potential by activating the neurons of our brain, that does not mean that they are not capable of modifying the functioning of our nerve cells. In fact, the constant repetition of actions and exposure to the experiences that shape addiction, gradually makes our brain transform both physically and functionally.

That is, our neurons reconfigure and begin to interact with each other in a way that leads us to have as our main priority falling into addictive behavior over and over again. Our mind learns that the only thing that matters is "keeping the addiction alive", and in fact, it behaves in a very similar way to the brains affected by dependence on alcohol, cocaine, etc.

4. The person's social habits are oriented toward addiction

As the brain of the addicted person changes, so do their social habits. She spends more and more time with people who are also addicted to the same thing, and this leaves her always exposed to the temptation to relapse. At the same time, he is leaving aside the rest of the links with the people who do not bring him those experiences.

5. The phenomenon of habituation appears

As the non-chemical addiction consolidates, the person needs to become more and more involved in the activity to which they have become addicted in order to feel a minimum of satisfaction or pleasure. In other words, the experiences that gave you a rush of intense well-being in the beginning (for example, winning 50 euros on a slot machine) hardly make you feel good anymore, and you need more.

6. Increased risk of developing other addictions

The fact of suffering one addiction increases the risk of developing others. This leads to a state of general disinhibition in which it is even more difficult to stay away from relapses.

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