What is addiction?
Addiction is a disease or condition that happens when a person takes a substance (alcohol, cocaine, heroin, nicotine) or engages in an activity (gambling, sex) that can be pleasurable but the continued use of which becomes compulsive and interferes with the responsibilities of life. The use or engagement in these things usually interferes with things such as work, relationships or even health. Those with addiction may not be aware that their behavior is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others connected to them.
Addiction is a word that can be used in many different ways. One definition of addiction describes physical addiction. Physical addiction is when a person’s body adapts to the presence of a substance so that the substance no longer has the same effect. In addiction terms this is known as a tolerance. Another part of physical addiction is the over reaction by the brain to drugs. In addiction terms this is known as triggers. An example of this would be an alcoholic walks into a bar and will feel a strong pull to have a drink.
Most addictions though have very little to do with the physical tolerance or triggers. Most people who have addictions use drugs, gambling, or shopping for example, in reaction to being emotionally stressed regardless of whether or not they have a physical addiction. In other words they have no coping skills to deal with life. This explains why those with addiction are so easily and readily capable of switching their drug or non-drug behavior.
Addiction according to a 12-step program and most recovered addicts is known as something different. Addiction is defined as having three parts for those addicts in a 12-step program. The three parts of addiction are a physical allergy, a mental obsession, and a spiritual malady. 12-step programs define addiction as more of spiritual emptiness and the use of substances or activities fills that emptiness.
Addiction regardless of what it means is a disease though and has nothing to do with will-power, strength or morality. Addiction, when it affects a person sticks with them for life and someone who has it can never be cured of it but they can recover from it.
Treatment for addiction
That is why there is treatment for addiction. Treatment for addiction usually begins with a physical withdrawal from the substances or activity. When someone with an addiction stops their drug use they usually experiences physical signs of sickness such as nausea, sweating, vomiting, chills and sweats, sleeplessness, fever and even seizures. This physical withdrawal during treatment for addiction is known as a detox. After detox is completed usually the next phase of treatment for addiction includes inpatient or outpatient therapy in order to help the addicts identify, avoid, and cope with situations in which they are most likely to go back to substances or the activities they were addicted to.
What are the symptoms of addiction?
- The biggest sign of addiction is the inability to limit use of a substance which leads to being severely impaired.
- There is a craving or compulsion to use the substance or activity.
- There is recurrent use of the drug or activity and it progresses to achieve the desired effect. This is also tolerance.
- Attempts to stop usually produce to withdrawal symptoms either physical or mental. These withdrawal symptoms range from irritability, to anxiety, to sweating and vomiting.
- Continued use of the drug or activity causes problems at work, in the social life, and within family responsibilities. Continued use also creates psychological impairments such as interpersonal problems. It also has negative effects on health, mood, self-respect, and self-esteem. This is made worse by continued use.
What are the causes of addiction?
There is no one specific cause for any addiction. There is no way to predict who will become addicted and who won’t. Any substance or activity that has the potential to be pleasurable can provide the conditions for an addiction to be formed. Some say genetics have something to do with causing addiction, some say they are just born with, and some say it is developed over continued use. Regardless addiction impacts various different parts of the brain including those related to reward, motivation and memory. Addiction can affect anyone, anywhere at any time.