What is Addiction

The process of addiction..

…begins with the use of a substance (alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, etc.) to feel good or at least better, until ultimately we must use it just to feel normal and to function. We lose the ability to feel pleasure except through use of the drug. We start off thinking we will stop before it gets out of control. But, in addiction, we stop feeling good a long time before we stop using. According to Dr. Nora Volkow, one of the nation’s leading experts on drug addiction and its effects on the brain, “addiction is a result of adaptations in the brain that leads to changes in behavior.  That translates…in the inability to control the intake of the drug”. It can cost us everything – our children, our relationships, and our employment.  We lose the ability to regulate our own behavior, and we do things almost as a reflex rather than out of free will. In addiction, the area of the brain that allows us to make free choices is not working properly.

All drugs of abuse activate dopamine

.. a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that plays a major role in motivating behavior by producing the sensation of pleasure. These drugs “hijack” the brain’s pleasure system, and they reward more efficiently than our brains do naturally. However, they ultimately reduce the amount of naturally produced dopamine in our brains. Thus, we become less able to feel good without the drug of abuse. In this process, the brain becomes “hardwired” to the change, and addiction results. Lack of the drug puts the addict in a state of deprivation, and craving takes over the body. Procuring our drug of addiction becomes the primary focus of our lives.

Experts have pondered whether addiction is a psychological disease or a physical disease. Dr. Volkow’s opinion is that addiction is a disease of the brain that translates into abnormal behavior. It is an interaction between genes and environment. Some of us are born genetically vulnerable to addiction, or to depression or other problems. Likewise, there are some environments that put us at a higher risk for addiction, while other environments are protective. Adolescents who are unsupervised, situations with high levels of stress, high levels of abuse, and high levels of access to drugs are situations that put us at high risk for addiction.  People are more likely to become addicted if they start taking drugs in adolescence or childhood.

Brain imaging has taught us much about how the brain changes in addiction. Often, by staying “clean” the brain can recover completely or at least significantly. What is the process to getting clean? Recovery always begins with detox – getting the drug out of one’s system. Then an individual should be assessed for co-occurring disorders such as depression or anxiety. Medications, therapies, and services are treatment modes for attaining recovery. Once a person is in recovery, AA, NA, church groups, and other support groups can assist in maintaining one’s sobriety. The best outcome is achieved when one continues a period of supervised normalcy for at least a year.

Source: HBO Addiction Series in conjunction with National Institute on Drugs Abuse and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism


Janis Caserta, LPC, LAC

Group Therapy: How it works for you

How group therapy can help you improve with others:

  •  Safety and comfort in commonality
  • Increased speed of healing breakthroughs
  • Support of others
  • Involvement in positive change for others

Group counseling is a very powerful and effective way to engage in personal change.  While some people are initially hesitant to share their struggles or concerns with a group of strangers, participants in group counseling soon understand that the group is intentionally set up so that all members of the group are accountable to being respectful and keeping all information confidential.  This allows members to quickly become comfortable within the safety of the group, and therefore gain tremendous benefit from the support of not just a therapist but an entire group of people.  Common benefits of group therapy include the speed with which breakthroughs and change can happen, the knowledge for each member that he/she is not alone in their struggles, the growth that comes from being able to receive support as well as from being part of a change process for others.

Read more about Group Therapy services and how you can benefit from them here.

New Therapy location in Metairie

Our new office is open and providing individual, family and group therapy for New Orleans, Metairie, Kenner and surrounding areas

North Shore Counseling and wellness is available for counseling appointments beginning Monday, October 1, 2012 at our new address. We are serving existing patients from our Mandeville office for your convenience. If you work or are frequently in the Metro New Orleans area, schedule your next appointment at your convenience at our new Metairie office.

If you are a resident of the Greater New Orleans area, seeking counseling for marriage, family, relationships, addiction, bipolor disorder, collaborative divorce, medication management, assessment for ADHD, ADD or PTSD, schedule an appointment by calling or contacting our therapy office today.

South Shore Counseling & Wellness:

(504) 717-4043

433 Metairie Road
Suite 309
Metairie, LA 70005

Map and driving directions for our New Orleans North & South Shore Counseling & Wellness offices