Wikipedia defines addiction as the continuous use of a substance or the continuous repetition of a behavior despite the adverse consequences resulting from that substance or behavior.
Exactly what causes addiction is still being explored in laboratories all over the world; that is, how much of it is physical and how much is psychological and how do the two interact? On the physical side, there are enzymes, immune systems and brain chemistry; on the social-psychological side, there are conditioned behavioral patterns and peer pressures. Finally, all the components become so interactive they are difficult to distinguish from each other.
However, the years of research have uncovered some surprising results. First, it has become crystal clear that people can be addicted to any damned thing, whether heroin, food, gambling, alcohol, Facebook, nicotine, sex, video games, sugar, caffeine or exercise. Even comfort. Some individuals are so addicted to easy chair comfort before a TV screen, if you force them to do a pushup or walk around the block, they become angry or depressed and exhibit, in extreme cases, actual withdrawal pains like vomiting and body chills. At the other extreme, exercise enthusiasts can become so hooked on jogging more and more hours each week, they get so thin and sickly they need medical care. Some people can’t get enough sex. The search for carnal pleasure consumes all their waking hours and there’s absolutely no relief because the fulfillment of one sexual act only starts the immediate quest for another. Some spend countless hours every day at a computer screen, even eating their lunch and dinner there, and experience severe withdrawal symptoms when forced to leave their cyber-space station.
There’s such a thing as an addictive-prone personality. These individuals, as the label implies, are easily addicted to any damned thing coming down the pike. Thus, such a person can be simultaneously hooked on cigarettes, alcohol (this pairing is very common) and gambling. Then too, there are people who can’t seem to get hooked on anything. They can smoke three packs a day or ingest a shot of vodka every couple of hours for six months and then abruptly walk away from either or both without a second thought or so much as a single tremor. Though I can’t point at any research to back up my suspicions, I think the addict-prone type is much more common. (Of course, most of us fall somewhere in between.)
We all know educated addicts who are aware of the harmful effects various addictions have on their bodies, yet they continue their behavior as if they’re on a suicide trip. However, when they’re diagnosed with some predictable disease, like lung cancer, they’ll undergo any expense and treatment to stay alive. Such cases will have, and are having, tremendous repercussions for ObamaCare.
And many of us also know addicts, especially those hooked on nicotine, food and alcohol, who go through and successfully complete expensive rehabilitations programs and yet, even after being free of their abused products for many months or even years, eventually have that single beer or single cookie and immediately lapse into their old habits.
It’s simply weird. After all the research I’ve done on the subject, that’s about all I can say.
Addiction is very funny stuff.