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Addiction is a chronic disease in the brain causing the circuits that control reward, motivation and memory to dysfunction. This leads to manifestations of the mind or body that cause an individual to have a pathological need to pursue reward or relief by returning to the object or behavior of manifestation. Ultimately this creates the cycle of addiction. Some of the most prevalent addictions include alcohol, drugs or other substances including sex, work, food, gambling, shopping, video games and the Internet. Though these are the most common addictions, it is possible for a person to develop an addiction to almost anything.

There is no cure for addiction, but various treatments (often depending on the object or behavior of addiction) can significantly help improve an individual’s quality of life and ability to manage the disease. Many people begin the recovery process with an inpatient or outpatient treatment program. Beyond that, treatment options may include various types of therapy (psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), holistic therapy, etc.), getting involved in a support group or finding an addiction counselor or mentor. Many people with addiction also find it very helpful to have the support of friends and family, to whom they can also be accountable. It can also be important to avoid potentially triggering situations and ask the people around you to help in this as well.  

The chronic nature of addiction can be difficult. Even if an individual is able to abstain from the object or behavior of their addiction for a period of time, exposure to triggering situations or environments may cause the person to relapse. Addiction can affect all aspects of a person’s life, not just their behavior. It can cause cognitive changes, emotional changes and interfere with a person’s ability to maintain healthy relationships with friends and family. If not treated and managed properly, addiction can lead to other health complications, disability or even premature death.

There are a number of support groups and resources available to help people facing addiction. Many organizations and groups help with a specific type of addiction so it is important to find one that works best for you, your needs and your lifestyle. There are many treatment centers, crisis centers and crisis hotlines available if you or someone you know needs help immediately.

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