Listen to this fascinating 13-minute clip from the RadioLab podcast "Stochasticity" (Season 6, Episode 1), which gives one of the best descriptions of how addiction hijacks our neurophysiology via the the powerful chemical dopamine, intermittent reinforcers (randomness), and how the brain seeks patterns and solutions.
In this example, a woman with no history of gambling nor addiction is treated with a dopamine-like chemical to treat her Parkinson's disease and then develops a gambling addiction. It really highlights the overwhelming power of addiction and how the brain works.
I have been treating addictions of all forms since 1994 and so many family members and loved ones of addicts have an understandably hard time understanding how anyone could become addicted or why they don't "just quit."
I have worked with so many wonderful people who have tried so very hard to overcome their addictions to no avail. I look forward to some day when our understanding of brain chemistry and how to target it most effectively will help us treat addiction on the neurochemical level. That day is fortunately on the horizon (yes!), but it isn't here yet. When that day comes I'll gladly shut down that part of my practice and focus on other aspects of improving the quality of people's lives. Until then we'll keep doing everything we can to help people with addictions and their loved ones.
NOTE: If you are interested, you can listen to the full RadioLab episode here, which has three other segments about the science of randomness that are unrelated to addiction.