According to the charity Action on Addiction, 1 in 3 people are addicted to something, be it work, exercise, shopping, food or drugs. Addictions aren’t just bad habits that compromise our health. They can have less dramatic — but still negative, impacts on our lives.
The definition of addiction certainly includes substance abuse of drugs or alcohol, but according to Judson Brewer, M.D., Ph.D, who has studied the subject for two decades, it’s also “continued use, despite adverse consequences.”
What causes addictions?
From his experience as a psychiatrist and scientist, Brewer knows addiction also includes problematic attachment to technology, love, distraction, thinking and even ourselves. That’s because all of these things act on our brains in similar ways that are directly linked to how we evolved.
“When we get hooked on the latest video game on our phone, or our favourite flavour of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, we are tapping into one of the most evolutionary conserved learning processes currently known to science, one shared among countless species and dating back to the most basic nervous systems known to man,” writes Brewer in his new book, ” The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love—Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits .”
Of course not all addictions are created equal: “The degree to which [an addiction] turned our lives and those around us upside-down helps determine the level of severity,” Brewer writes. “In this way, we can view addictions along a spectrum calibrated as much on the degree to which our behaviours affect our lives as on the behaviours themselves.”
The basics of habits
We learn both good and bad habits from experience, says Brewer, and understanding how they develop is key. For example, we do something, and it makes us feel good because of the substance itself (a sugar or nicotine rush ) or because it makes us feel better about ourselves, such as reduced social anxiety.
This establishes a positive feedback loop, and the next time we engage in the behaviour, we reinforce that habit, healthy or not.
Humans developed feedback loops because, at their most basic level, they ensured survival — by helping us remember where to find food, for example. But as we evolved and became more complex animals, those loops sometimes had negative consequences.
When a feedback loop turns into a behaviour we’d rather stop or limit, but we can’t, that’s an addiction.
CBD can help people with addiction
Opioids are among the most powerfully addictive substances. Research indicates that CBD can be useful in helping people get off and stay off opioids.
A 2014 study found that countries with medical marijuana programs had significantly lower rates of opioid overdoses. It suggests that people who were able to treat their pain with cannabis products were less likely to rely on highly addictive opioids.
Another 2013 study done on rats founds that rats given CBD did not find morphine as rewarding. CBD possibly interferes with the way that the brain responds to opioids and could potentially impact the addictive nature of opioids.
A 2018 study looked at cigarette smokers who had abstained overnight, after being given a dose of CBD. Researchers found that the CBD didn’t reduce the cravings for nicotine, but it did make the experience of smoking a cigarette the next morning less pleasurable.
According to research published in Substance Abuse, CBD is “thought to modulate various neuronal circuits involved in drug addiction,” meaning CBD can temper the brain’s response to addiction triggers such as stress, pain, and anxiety without creating the artificial high associated with opioids.
Getting help for addictions
Addiction is a treatable condition. Whatever the addiction, there are lots of ways you can seek help. You could see your doctor for advice or contact one of the many organisation that specialises in helping people with addictions.
These are some online UK directories to find addiction treatment services: