Addiction is a condition in which a person engages in the use of a substance or in a behavior for which the rewarding effects provide a compelling incentive to repeatedly pursue the behavior despite detrimental consequences. Addiction may involve the use of substances such as alcohol, inhalants, opioids, cocaine, nicotine, and others, or behaviors such as gambling.
There is scientific evidence that the addictive behaviors share key neurobiological features: They intensely involve brain pathways of reward and reinforcement, affecting motivation, which involve the neurotransmitter dopamine.
And, in keeping with other highly motivated states, they lead to the pruning of synapses in the prefrontal cortex, home of the brain’s highest functions, so that attention is highly focused on cues related to the target substance or activity. It is important to know that the brain changes are reversible after the substance use or behavior is discontinued.