Addictions and money.

Money comes second to an addiction, most things do, apart from autonomic biological functions of the human body. Physical or psychological addictions can make a person justify anything to themselves and often act out of character as the stimulus is often secret.

A quick note about addiction versus dependence. They are different. Addictions mean the body and mind want the substance. Dependence means the body and mind need the substance. Take nicotine for example, you might want it, but there is no risk of death if you do not have it. Alcohol is different. When someone reaches dependency the potential loss of life is real through withdrawals leading to delirium tremens. Dependence occurs as a result of consistent consumption over an extended period of time. For more see the paper cited below.

Schuckit, M. (2014). Recognition and management of withdrawal delirium (delirium tremens). New England Journal of Medicine371(22), pp.2109-2113.

Often addictions start as someone looking to find peace from suffering, be that mental, physical or otherwise. The substance doesn’t matter in its essence, its what it provides for the person. Escape mostly, from suffering.

I once heard Naval Ravikant state people are looking not for peace of mind, but peace from mind. Navals podcast appearances are excellent, as is his Almanack written by Eric Jorgensen. That stuck with me ever since and has shaped my work in the addiction field of nursing. It fit so perfectly with my experience that those who become addicted never chose it, it happened to them because of other circumstances. This links well with Dr Gabor Mate’s work who writes that traumas people experience isn’t the main issue, yes, those experiences are traumatic in themselves but the true trauma, is how they now see the world. Their viewpoint changes sometimes indefinitely. This is what therapy seeks to adapt.

If we combine these two brilliant minds it can make sense why people use substances, both Naval and Gabor have had a profound impact on my work, yet neither know I exist. They may not know the other exists.

Lets steer this back to money instead, the money issue linked to addiction is gambling, In whatever form that is. Betting, casino games, some would add day trading to this list. People do all these in the hope of making a lot of money in a short amount of time. This I believe is strongly linked to the stories of success seen on social media. Its way cooler to have a nice house and a supercar in your twenties because that signals to the world that you have accomplished the stuff that many dream of in the western world.

If people do choose to gamble as a ‘method’ to achieve this or to pass their time, they experience a dopamine effect in the brain from the mesolimbic system. This system is also responsible for the positive feelings associated with food, sex and social experiences. Receiving money stimulates this response and the person loves it and tries to recreate that feeling. It’s a powerful response that causes floods of fleeting joy. In time, if replicated over and over just the anticipation of a potential reward can cause this, which is why we see people go broke gambling until their very last pound.

Undoing this takes time, effort and some luck. Its very difficult to alter fast neural pathways that have had thousands of years of evolution to develop. The myelin sheath that surrounds these pathways mean the transmission between these neurons is lightning fast and means that your brain has completed its process before the body can react. Think of this like putting the next pound coin in a slot machine or picking up an alcoholic drink, the brains done its part long before the hand acts. An awareness of this and attempts to steer yourself in the more favourable direction (whatever that means to you) is important here.

If you are struggling with your mental health and/or addiction please reach out for help, you are not alone in it.

This Naked Mind is an amazing book by Annie Grace. I recommend it and her podcast a lot and have always had positive feedback about it. Annie doesn’t know I exist and I am not affiliated in any way with her projects but I like her approach.

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