Addiction is a brain disorder characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite adverse consequences.8Despite the involvement of a number of psychosocial factors, a biological process – one which is induced by repeated exposure to an addictive stimulus – is the core pathology that drives the development and maintenance of an addiction.19 The two properties that characterize all addictive stimuli are that they are reinforcing (i.e., they increase the likelihood that a person will seek repeated exposure to them) and intrinsically rewarding (i.e., they are perceived as being inherently positive, desirable, and pleasurable).137Addiction is a disorder of the brain’s reward system which arises through transcriptional and epigenetic mechanisms and occurs over time from chronically high levels of exposure to an addictive stimulus (e.g., eating food, the use of cocaine, engagement in sexual intercourse, participation in high-thrill cultural activities such as gambling, etc.).
What Is Addiction?
Addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (for example, alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (such as gambling, sex, shopping) that can be pleasurable but the continuation of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary responsibilities and concerns, such as work, relationships, or health. People who have developed an addiction may not be aware that their behavior is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others.
The word addiction is used in several different ways. One definition describes physical addiction. This is a biological state in which the body adapts to the presence of a drug so that drug no longer has the same effect, otherwise known as tolerance. Another form of physical addiction is the phenomenon of overreaction by the brain to drugs (or to cues associated with the drugs). An alcoholic walking into a bar, for instance, will feel an extra pull to have a drink because of these cues.
“How should a Christian view addiction?”Answer: The word addiction has two basic meanings. The first definition, and the one most of us are familiar with is “to cause to become physiologically or psychologically dependent on a habit-forming substance.” Those who are addicted or “given to much wine” (Titus 1:7; 2:3), “drunkards” (1 Timothy 3:3) or “heavy drinkers” (1 Timothy 3:8) are disqualified from teaching or holding a position of authority in the church. It’s clear that church leadership needs to be sober and self-controlled so that, by their example, they can teach others to be the same, for we know that “drunkards . . . shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:10). Believers must not be dependent upon alcohol, and it stands to reason that this would also apply to addiction to any other substance, i.e. drugs, pornography, gambling, gluttony, tobacco, etc.The second definition of addiction is “to occupy (oneself) with or involve (oneself) in something habitually or compulsively.” This speaks of an unnatural (for the Christian, at least) obsession with anything other than God: sports, work, shopping and/or acquiring “stuff,” even family or children. We are to “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5), which is, according to Jesus, the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38). We can conclude, then, that an addiction to anything other than God Himself is wrong. God is the only thing we can (and should) occupy ourselves with habitually. To do so with anything else draws us away from Him and displeases Him. He alone is worthy of our complete attention, love, and service. To offer these things to anything or anyone else is idolatry.
Main article: Behavioral addictionThe term behavioral addiction correctly refers to a compulsion to engage in a natural reward – which is a behavior that is inherently rewarding (i.e., desirable or appealing) – despite adverse consequences.61113 Preclinical evidence has demonstrated that marked increases in the expression of ?FosB through repetitive and excessive exposure to a natural reward induces the same behavioral effects and neuroplasticity as occurs in a drug addiction.11242526Reviews of both clinical research in humans and preclinical studies involving ?FosB have identified compulsive sexual activity – specifically, any form of sexual intercourse – as an addiction (i.e., sexual addiction).1124 Moreover, reward cross-sensitization between amphetamine and sexual activity, meaning that exposure to one increases the desire for both, has been shown to occur preclinically and clinically as a dopamine dysregulation syndrome;11242526 ?FosB expression is required for this cross-sensitization effect, which intensifies with the level of ?FosB expression.112526Reviews of preclinical studies indicate that long-term frequent and excessive consumption of high fat or sugar foods can produce an addiction (food addiction).1113Gambling is a natural reward which is associated with compulsive behavior and for which clinical diagnostic manuals, namely the DSM-5, have identified diagnostic criteria for an “addiction”.11 There is evidence from functional neuroimaging that gambling activates the reward system and the mesolimbic pathway in particular.1127 Similarly, shopping and playing videogames are associated with compulsive behaviors in humans and have also been shown to activate the mesolimbic pathway and other parts of the reward system.11Based upon this evidence, gambling addiction, video game addiction and shopping addiction are classified accordingly.