Addiction and Change – Part 1

How and Why People Become Addicted

The creative work of God resulted in mankind having a built-in reward system which is activated by both internal and external behavioral and chemical stimuli. The pleasures stemming from the activation of this reward system are the driving motives for addiction. The desire to enjoy the pleasures afforded through this brain reward system leads people to prioritize and repeat behaviors (processes) or use chemicals which activate or enhance the reward system.

People Have Needs

Mankind has two broad categories of needs which can be labeled as material and spiritual. These categories could be further divided into areas such as financial, health, sexual, nutritional, relational, intellectual and so forth. It is evident that people have material needs. One does not have to look outside of oneself to see and experience the need for food and shelter among other things. Spiritual needs are just as real though they may not be as evident. There is, in a person, a recognition of something greater than oneself and a need to interact with it. This interaction may come through prayer or meditation or religious service. This recognition of spirituality is described in the book of Romans chapters one and two and is also recognized by the Joint Commission (Hodge, 2011; Hodge & Lietz, 2014).

Even in the garden of Eden, prior to Adam’s sin, humans had needs. Those needs were being met perfectly by the rest of God’s creation and God Himself. This shows that, neither having needs nor the satisfying of those needs is inherently bad. God seems to have built into mankind a system whereby the brain responds to met needs (stimuli) in a manner that encourages a person to re-engage those stimuli. A very practical example of this is the human need for sexual behavior for the purpose of reproduction for the continuance of the human race. The pleasures resulting from sexual acts play a part in the continued desire for sexual activity and people seek out sexual activity to meet that need and enjoy the resultant pleasure.

©2017 Shawn Trueman (Permission granted to copy if reference to this website is included.)

Resources (for the series)
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American Psychiatric Association. (2013). American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.

Balswick, J. O., King, P. E., & Reimer, K. S. (2005). The Reciprocating Self. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Benner, D. G. (1998). Care of Souls: Revisioning Christian Nuture and Counsel. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Dingle, G. A., Stark, C., Cruwys, T., & Best, D. (2015). Breaking good: Breaking ties with social groups may be good for recovery from substance misuse. British Journal of Social Psychology, 54(2), 236–254. http://doi.org/10.1111/bjso.12081

Frederick, T. V. (2014). Spiritual transformation: Honoring spiritual traditions in psychotherapy. Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 1(2), 109–115. http://doi.org/10.1037/scp0000020

Gallagher, S. (2011). A Biblical Guide to Counseling the Sexual Addict. Dry Ridge, KY: Pure Life Ministries.

Hodge, D. R. (2011). Alcohol Treatment and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: Enhancing Effectiveness by Incorporating Spirituality and Religion. Social Work, 56(1), 21–31.

Hodge, D. R., & Lietz, C. A. (2014). Using Spiritually Modified Cognitive–Behavioral Therapy in Substance Dependence Treatment: Therapists’ and Clients’ Perceptions of the Presumed Benefits and Limitations. Health & Social Work, 39(4), 200–210. http://doi.org/10.1093/hsw/hlu022

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing. (n.d.). The American Heritage Dictionary entry: addiction. Retrieved August 13, 2016, from https://ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=addiction&submit.x=0&submit.y=0

Lê, C., Ingvarson, E. P., & Page, R. C. (1995). Alcoholics Anonymous and the Counseling Profession: Philosophies in Conflict. Journal of Counseling & Development, 73(6), 603–609.

May, G. (2009). Addiction and Grace: Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addictions (Adobe Digital Edition). New York: Harper Collins.

Rosmarin, D. H., Green, D., Pirutinsky, S., & McKay, D. (2013). Attitudes toward spirituality/religion among members of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 44(6), 424–433. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0035218

Shaw, M. (2011). Divine Intervention. Bemidji, Minnesota: Focus Publishing Incorporated.

van Wormer, K., & Davis, D. R. (2009). Addiction Treatment: A Strengths Perspective (Third Edition). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Welch, E. T. (2003). Motives : Why do I do the things I do? Journal of Biblical Counseling Fall 2003.


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