Addiction is not having the control over doing, taking or using something, to the point that it may be harmful. Historically, addiction has been defined with regard solely to psycho-active substances which cross the blood-brain barrier once ingested, temporarily altering the chemical milieu of the brain, substances like:
- Other drugs
Addictions are very common as they can be developed from anything and almost everything. The most common type of addiction is substance abuse (smoking, drinking, drugs, etc.) Addictive behaviour is also common with activities like:
- Sexually related behaviour (watching pornography, cybersex, telephone sex hotline use)
- Internet (side effects of this may be, lack of interest in socializing offline, damaged eyesight, and even weight gain)
We as human beings are creatures of habit, this allows addictions to be easily picked up once we get used to behaving in a certain way. It is possible that some people are able to participate in activities and never develop addictions, leaving no signs of withdrawal or cravings. For those that do develop addictions, withdrawal and craving symptoms can create devastating dependencies. Many experts have concluded that neither physical dependencies nor psychological dependencies are beneficial to anyone.
Addictions can also stem from activities such as social gatherings. During social events a psychological ‘high’ can be experienced and the chase for that ‘high’ is induced. It can stem from substance experimentation such as smoking or drinking something, or even an idealistic approach that intrigues you to the point of wanting to actively oblige your curiosity. Winning a bet, having sex with someone new, peer pressure, any of these scenarios are capable of inducing an addiction.
Personality can play a part in addiction as many people simply have the type of personality that becomes addicted to something. Generally, an addiction has little to do with the actual induction. There is usually a deeper root to the cause of the addiction. How so? Well, it is possible that you were fine before you ever developed your addiction and most of the time you may end thinking to yourself, I wish I never started this.
Treatment for Addictions
Proper treatment is vital to ridding yourself of an addiction as addictions tend to become worse and have a more damaging effect on you and those around you. Before treatment, you must recognise that you do have an addiction and make the decision to get help for it. Recognition may be very difficult as most of us avoid self-criticism, and in turn, reject constructive-criticism even more. In this case, honesty is ALWAYS the best policy.
There are primarily three basic treatment processes to overcome addictions:
- Drug Replacement Therapy or Medications: This is when you are prescribed a substance to replace the dependent substance you are addicted to. This includes such things like nicotine replacements like the patch, or gum, to more sophisticated and potent replacements such as methadone for more hazardous drug addictions. Medications can be very useful when dealing with detoxification procedures, because they may relieve some of the hassles of getting rid of an addiction.
- Cold Turkey: This means to just quit your addictions upon your own willpower. Cold turkey is the most difficult of all treatments as any cravings or withdrawal symptoms can become extremely distressing. It has been done by some addicts, but again, it is the most difficult of all treatment procedures to accomplish.
- Counselling: Addictions Counselling can help go straight to the root of any addiction and should be applied to either of the other treatment procedures to help in reducing risks of a relapse. Addictions Counselling is essential in overcoming any physical addictions such as shopping, gambling, pornography, sex, as addictions of this nature can be far more harmful socially and personally as opposed to physically.
Any addiction sought to be given up should be diagnosed first before deciding on a particular treatment procedure. A pill may not be the answer.
Counsellors who are trained and experienced in treating addictions can be helpful in many ways. Before the person with the addiction seeks assistance, a Counsellor can guide the family or others in helping to increase the addicted person’s motivation to change. Family members can be advised on how to understand addiction and how to provide support during recovery
Using one or more of several types of psychological therapies, Counsellors can help people address the psychological issues involved with their addiction. Many individuals with addictions suffer from other mental health conditions such as severe anxiety and depression, at the same time. Counselling and Psychotherapy can be very helpful for diagnosing and treating these "co-occurring" psychological conditions when they begin to create impairment.
Because a person may experience one or more relapses and return to addictive behaviour, it can be crucial to have an appropriate professional with whom that person can discuss and be supported in identifying possible triggers for relapse. Reach out for help.
If you, or someone you know, has been affected by addiction the following organisations may be able to help:
AddAction is a support service for people recovering from addictions.
Salvation Army Addiction Support offers detox and rehabilitation.
The National Gambling Helpline offers guidance for gamblers and their loved ones.
FRANK provides information and advice about drugs of any kind.
Alcoholics Anonymous supports the personal recovery and continued sobriety of individual alcoholics in need of help.