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Asclepius' Ampoule - Addictions

Addiction to outer and inner substances

by Roberto Merante, doctor and TCM master

Listening to the background music in our club I was thinking about how the feeling of peace and devotion was almost perfect. Yes, ALMOST. My only regret was the impossibility to light up my pipe and lose myself in those blueish spirals of smoke.

"Well done, always thinking to your pipe"

"You're great Will, not only I didn't hear you coming, but you can also read my mind?"

"I don't need that, I know my friends! On the other hand, don't you think that depending by a substance to feel good could be a not so healthy behavior?"

"Enlighten us, doc", started the Professor "why there are so many addicted people?"

While I was thining about the questions, I put a spoon (a wood spoon, of course) of Oolong tea inside the beautiful earthenware teapot and than I sat down.

"Let's start from beginning. I think we have to divide addictions in two categories.

Addiction to outer chemical substances: all of these substances can give good feelings or at least diminish the bad feelings. We don't have to consider just drugs, but also medicines which alleviates pain can become a substance that our body needs to keep feeling good. Obviously, this kind of use of medicines will damage our body, if a doctor doesn't follow the therapy. On the other hand, we have substances, as smoke and alcohol, which are commonly used by people, but that have the same collateral effect. Smoke is, even in common thought nowadays, related to tumors or strokes; the bad effect of alcohol are still not considered by people.

Different is the addiction to inner substances: as you might know, our brain produces substances which are essential to the correct neurologic performances. The alteration in production of those substances (let's think about an increase of serotonine) can trigger a state of well-being, but at the same time our brain get used to work with an increased level of substance. In other words, if practising dangerous sports can increase the level of adrenaline and provoke a state of excitement, the excess of adrenergic1 stimulation can result in an addiction to it."

As he was waking up from a too long sleep, the Professor started talking.
"Clever explanation, even if simple, but what about psychologic addiction? Isn't it way more strong than the physical2 one?".

"I agree with you, Augustus" said Nefir "and by this side we can expand this field. If you think about it, there are a lot of pleasant habitudes that in some ways led to addiction. I mean, it would be difficult for us to do without them."

"Revealing Wilhelm's question" I said "I would say that in my case smoking the pipe is not only something I do to assume nicotine3, but the rite of lighting it and tasting its aroma are very relaxing. Anyway I have to say that our mind can't be completely addicted to an habitude if we can do without it in certain moments. In other words, avoiding the excess can considerably reduce the risks bond to it. But now, I would like to dedicate to an habitude4 extremely lovely: drinking a cup of tea with good friends."

Even then, we agree unanimously.

1. Adrenergic: t refers to sympathetic system. It's a part of the nervous system which works indipendently from will (autonome system) and has the role to stimulate all the body parts which have to do a particular action through hormones. In a healthy state, it works harmonically with the parasympathetic system, which has the opposite functions. For example, the first accelerates the cardiac frequency and the second slows it.

2. Physical addiction: reaction of the body to a specific substance. We need some particular conditions to define a drug or a narcotic substance:
- the substance create physical addiction: our body doesn't work without it. If the substance lacks, the body create a sensation which can become intolerable (drug withdrawal);
- the substance help the body to tolerate some sensations: to eliminate bad feelings we have to progressively increase the dose of substance;
- the substance create psychic addiction: the subject's first thought is how to get the substance.

3. Nicotine: a potent parasympathomimetic stimulant and an alkaloid found in the nightshade family of plants. If taken in high doses produces an increase of cerebral dopamine and generate a sense of well-being. In higher doses become toxic with cardiac, neurologic and gastro-intestinal symptoms. A curiosity: nicotine is sometime used as insecticide.

3. Habitude: phenomenon related to a substance in which one can't find all the three characteristics of substances which provoke addiction (e.g. nicotine generates a phisic and psychic addiction, but doesn't create a state of tolerance).

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