We hear all those pop songs about being addicted to someone, but do we ever stop to think what addiction is? While in a love song it sounds okay, real life is totally different. Addiction can take a lot of shapes, and in this article we will give you an insight into the causes and possible solutions of this issue.
What is substance addiction?
Psychologically speaking, addiction is a condition, in which a person takes in a substance, whose consumption becomes compulsive, and starts to interfere with other fields of their life, such as work, relationships or health. Most typically, these substances are alcohol, drugs and nicotine.
Addiction can be further subcategorized into physical and psychological types. When someone's body adapts to the presence of a substance, and starts to tolerate it, we call it physical addiction. Because that particular substance is tolerated, you will need more and more of that to keep up the old effect. Moreover, the brain might overreact the drugs a person is surrounded by: for example, when an alcoholic person walks into a bar, he might feel an extra urge to drink. Psychological addiction, on the other hand, is based on certain kinds of stress. As a result of these, people may start doing addictive activities, and this is also true for a non-addicted person. If someone gets fired from their job, they will be very likely to drink alcohol to react to the stress that is generated by this unpleasant experience. Drinking can become frequent when that bad feeling comes back, and it may turn into alcoholism.
From occasional fun to a social stigma - substance addiction
Addiction often starts with some innocent booze, where people might try alcohol or drugs. Later these little acts might escalate into addiction, but first we need to understand the underlying causes of it, as substance abuse is mostly the surface manifestation of something lying deep inside.
- Addiction is often very likely to be genetically-inherited: when one or both parents suffered from some kind of dependence, their children have a chance to experience the same problem
- Being surrounded mainly by addicted people can give you a false world-image and make you feel that it is normal to become one of them
- Peer pressure can force you into doing what your peers are doing - if your classmates smoke, you may not want to be neglected, and you might take up the habit as well
- Traumatic experiences might trigger addictive behaviour, because they give you the impression that you are left with no other choice but to seek for relief in the form of drugs or alcohol
- Constant stress is a widespread motivation to drink or do drugs - e.g. you are in the middle of a divorce, and you use alcohol as a tool to cope with problems
- Alcohol or drugs can boost self-esteem for a moment, so users with personality problems often get addicted
Having seen a few of the typical causes for substance dependence, now let's focus on the symptoms of addiction
The keyword will be behavioural change. When someone becomes dependent on something, the symptoms will be pretty much the same.
- Risk-taking is very common among addicts to obtain drugs or liquor - stealing, burglary, or even more serious felonies are easily committed when addiction gets serious.
- Secret behaviour - being secretive is one of the most alarming symptoms you might observe about an addict: they keep you in the dark about where they spend their time, money, why they lost weight, etc.
- They experience horrible withdraval symptoms when there is no alcohol exposure - aggression and impulsive behaviour may result, or even depression or suicide
- Addicts like to stay in denial - they refuse to admit that they have a problem, which makes it very complicated to find a solution
- Excess consumption makes it easy to realise that somebody has a problem: smelling like alcohol, bad cough, strange little packages left in pockets can all give people a hint that something is going on.
- Giving up old habits is very informative as well: gym membership costs a lot, especially for a drug-user, so they might spend that money on substance instead.
- Growing number of problems with the law: possessing, selling and using drugs is illegal in most countries
- Financial difficulties - spending all your money on substance makes it impossible to buy clothes, pay bills or take your spouse to the movies: people will get suspicious and borrowing money from all your friends and family can give you away
- Relationship problems - addiction jeopardises relationships with the people who are not part of it: people around you may turn their back on you if they can't see a change for too long. Breakups, divorces and becoming totally alienated and isolated may result from being addicted, as people lose their trust in you after a while. Alcoholic people often abuse their wife or children (domestic violence)
- A vast percentage of substance-dependent people end up unemployed and consequently homeless
Easier said than done - what can we do about it?
It is very hard to battle addiction without admitting that there is a problem. These people are ashamed of their illness, because there is a strong social stigma attached to them. When the addicted person becomes willing to get help, there will be many options to choose from.
You can take part in group therapies conducted by professionals
Deterrent therapies involve taking drugs which cause painful side effects, if you use substance
The well-known detoxification therapy is the longest and probably the most effective one - you get medicines to overcome the horrible withdraval symptoms and then you may start a new life
You can go on rehab - long programmes combining elements from therapies and the abstinent world
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