What Is Addiction?
Addiction is the state of being abnormally tolerant to and dependent upon something psychologically or physically habit-forming. Addiction is primarily a disease associated with narcotics and alcohol, but there are many behavioral addictions with equally serious consequences.
Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in the individual pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other compulsive and addictive behaviors.
Addiction is characterized by impairment in behavioral control, craving, inability to consistently abstain, and diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships.
Like other chronic diseases, addiction involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.
Historically, addiction has been defined only in regard to substances that cross the blood-brain barrier once ingested and temporarily alter the chemical makeup of the brain.
A first draft in the DSM-5 has suggested a new category of mental disorders called the “Behavioral Addictions” which would include compulsive gambling as a stand-alone diagnosis. The new DSM-5 does not include behavior that creates a psychological dependency, such as compulsive sex, pornography, video games, work, Internet, exercise, and watching television is proposed that any of the other “Behavioral Addictions” would be diagnosed as a Behavioral Addiction: Not Otherwise Specified.
What Are The Types of Addiction?
The word “addiction” can be used to describe several different types of conditions.
Physical Addiction occurs when the body adapts to the presence of a drug so that the drug no longer garners the same effect – this is generally described as being “tolerant.” When the now-tolerated drug is removed from the body, a physical reaction occurs. Physical addiction is also the way the brain overreacts to substances, or cues associated with the substance.
It’s important to note that not all forms of addiction are related to alcoholism or substance abuse. Other people experience another sort of addiction:
Behavioral Addiction (often termed “Impulse Control Disorders.”) is the psychological compulsion when the body is stressed, to engage compulsive behaviors such as compulsive gambling, compulsive sexual behavior, compulsive shopping. For those who have behavioral addictions, the focus of the addiction isn’t always relevant – it’s the need to “take action” when stressed in a certain manner.
What Causes Addiction?
It can be nearly impossible to understand how one person can become addicted to a substance or behavior, while another does not, even if that person has also tried the substance or lifestyle.
Some of the more common risk factors for the development of addiction can include:
- Poor parenting styles
- Chaotic home environment
- Lack of nurturing by caregivers as a child
- No attachment formed with the parent.
- Inappropriately aggressive or very shy behavior in school
- Hanging out in the wrong crowd.
- Feeling like drugs are cool.
- Poor scholastic achievements.
- Poor or ineffective social skills
Often addiction stems from those who have an “addictive personality,” which is a personality that is thought to have a higher propensity for addiction. Proposed personality traits for an addictive personality include:
- Reckless and impulsive behavior
- High levels of stress
- Lack of goals
- Social isolation
Addiction Versus Abuse:
One of the most common terms that’s misconstrued is that people who rely on things like narcotic drugs to reduce chronic pain are “addicts.” Not all addicts are abusing their drugs; some may require controlled substances to function. So, what’s the difference between addiction and abuse?
Addiction is use of a harmful habit-forming substance that leads to dire consequences. Clinically, addiction is diagnosed if, over a period twelve months, one or more of the following occur:
- A person fails to meet his or her obligations, such as work or school performance.
- A person behaves recklessly, such as driving while intoxicated or using unsafe needles.
- Legal issues that are related to the abuse of the substance of choice.
- Continued use of the substance of choice even in the face of consequences.
This definition of addiction can involve behaviors and substances.
Substance (or Behavioral) Abuse is a far more serious problem than addiction; as substance (or behavioral) abuse can lead to problems for the friends, family and loved ones of the person who is addicted.
What Is Substance Dependence?
Substance Dependence is clinically defined as three or more behavioral patterns plus two or more physical issues over twelve months.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, a person is “dependent” upon a substance if their pattern of use causes significant impairment and/or distress by three or more of these in a 12-month period:
- Tolerance: an increased need for the substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect or a diminished effect with the same amount of substance.
- Withdrawal: symptoms of withdrawal are based upon the substance, or the same/closely related substance is taken to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
- Substance taken in larger amounts or over longer periods than was intended.
- Persistent desire or unsuccessful attempts to control substance use.
- Preoccupation with obtaining drug or alcohol.
- Important social, work, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use.
- Substance use continues despite knowledge that substance is causing physical or psychological harm.
What Are Some Of The Consequences Of Addiction?
Every year, over 100,000 US citizens die from the abuse of illegal drugs and alcohol.
Babies who are exposed prenatally to certain legal and illegal drugs may be born prematurely. Maternal drug use and abuse can lead to developmental and behavioral problems later in life, too.
Teens who abuse drugs have behavioral problems, scholastic problems and may even drop out of school. These teens are at risk for violence, infectious diseases, and unplanned pregnancies.
Parents who abuse drugs often head chaotic and stress-filled homes. Their families may suffer from child abuse and neglect.
Adults who abuse chemicals have problems thinking clearly, remembering, and paying attention. As a result of their drug abuse, they may have poor work performance and chaotic interpersonal relationships.
In addition, those who abuse drugs and alcohol may have long-term medical consequences of their drug use, including cirrhosis, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, along with many mental illnesses.
What Are Some Types Of Addiction?
Substance abuse is the state in which a person is addicted to a certain substance, such as alcohol, which harms every aspect of a person’s life.
Alcoholism is a chronic, often progressive disease in which a person craves alcohol and drinks despite repeated alcohol-related problems. Alcohol is the number one substance abuse problem in the United States; 1 in 6 people have a drinking problem. Alcoholism is called a family disease because it hurts the lives of family members and others who are close to the alcoholic. For the alcoholic to get well, family members often must take part in treatment.
Cocaine Addiction can lead to major physiological and psychological consequences. Even more devastating than the negative effects of cocaine on the abuser are the effects to their families, and communities. Many cases of child abuse and domestic violence are related to the aggressive violence often associated with cocaine abuse.
Illegal Methamphetamine is produced in makeshift laboratories using cheap and readily-available materials. While the abuse of meth was originally confined to Hawaii and other western parts of the country, use and abuse of methamphetamine continues to spread east – rural areas are increasingly affected. Methamphetamine abuse is a very serious – and growing – problem in the United States.
Prescription Drug Abuse is defined as intentional use of medication without a prescription, manner other than the way it’s prescribed, and/or for the feeling the medication provides. Prescription drug abuse is a growing, serious problem, especially in teens and adolescents.
Recovery – It takes a lot of guts to face up to addiction. Sobriety may seem like an impossible, unattainable goal, but recovery is never out of reach. Change is scary, but change is possible, and you have it within you to kick the habit. Addiction is NOT a life sentence.
Substance Abuse Relapse is the return to the abuse of alcohol or drugs after a period of sobriety. The length of the period of sobriety does not matter because addiction is a chronic illness characterized by periods of relapse and remission.
Substance Abuse is a complex disease of the brain that is characterized by the compulsive, powerful, often uncontrollable, drug use and abuse even in the face of negative consequences.
While not classified in the DSM-IV as a diagnosis, it’s commonly thought that certain compulsive and harmful behaviors can become addicting for some.
Codependency: The term codependency, also known as “relationship addiction,” started as a way to define the relationship of people who lived with alcoholics or substance abusers. This definition has expanded to include any person who is not in a healthy, mutually satisfactory relationship.
Compulsive Shopping and Compulsive Spending are patterns of chronic and repetitive purchasing that becomes challenging to stop that lead to negative consequences. Compulsive Shopping (or shopping addiction) is an impulse control disorder in which people spend great deals of money (often money they do not have, thereby incurring debt) as a way to “feel better.” Similar to other impulse control disorders, compulsive shopping has the opposite of the desired effects – it makes the shopper feel worse.
Enabling, in a psychological context, starts as an attempt to be kind and helpful to someone else – usually a loved one with an addiction or other mental illness – by doing something for others that they are or should be able to do for themselves. Enabling is usually something done with the very best of intentions.
Pornography Addiction (overuse of pornography) is excessive pornography use that interferes with daily life. Currently, the DSM-IV does not consider pornography addiction as a diagnosis. However, therapists are beginning to take pornography addiction more seriously.
Sexual Addiction is a progressive intimacy disorder characterized by compulsive sexual thoughts and acts. Sex and the thought of sex often dominates the thinking patterns of an individual with a sexual addiction, which make it very difficult to develop healthy interpersonal relationships.
Television Addiction: There’s no question that television can be used as a teaching tool, something that can provide humor and distraction and escape from every day troubles. The problem with television occurs when a person realizes that he or she needs to stop watching as much television, yet finds that he or she is unable to stop watching TV.
Video Game Addiction (which has been called video game overuse, or pathological use of computer/video games) like many other addictions, is an impulse control disorder similar in many ways to compulsive shopping or compulsive gambling, rather than an addiction to a substance.
Workaholism (not listed in the DSM-IV) is sometimes called “the respectable addiction.” After all, our society lauds those who work hard, climb the corporate ladder, and have many successes at the workplace. Workaholism is more than simply working hard, putting in long hours or spending extra time working.
What Are Some Of The Signs Of Addiction?
Among the first to notice that their loved one has a problem, family and friends are in a perfect position to intervene, which can increase the likelihood of abuse recover. Some of the warning signs that your loved one has an addiction include the following:
- Grades dropping
- Under-performance at work
- Social isolation from previously enjoyed activities and friends.
- Acting aggressive or irritable
- Missing valuables around the house
- Feelings of suicide, appearing rundown, or depressed.
- Lying about the addiction.
- Frequently engaging the addiction.
- Increasing the activity to provide a stronger high.
- Engaging in risky behavior
- Having problems with the law
- Problems paying the bills
How Is Addiction Treated?
Addiction is a treatable and manageable disease.
Discoveries in the science of addiction have led to major advancements in the treatment of addiction, allowing those who engage in addiction to lead normal, productive lives.
Addiction is no longer a life sentence.
This means that there are treatments and therapies available to help manage addiction in addicts. According to the National Institute on Drug Use, there is no one single effective treatment that will help every addict, every time. Treatment must be tailored for the individual and should address the whole person in order to be effective.
Research shows that combining treatment medications (if applicable) with behavioral therapy is the best way to ensure treatment success. Treatment must be tailored to the individual’s drug abuse patterns and drug-related medical, social, and psychiatric problems.
The types of therapy that have been found to be useful for addicts include the following:
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – this type of therapy focuses upon altering the false beliefs that perpetuate the addiction. The goal for CBT is to alter the addiction related behaviors.
Multidimensional Family Therapy – this therapeutic model has been created primarily for teenagers who are addicts and their families and is designed to improve familial relations and functioning of the family unit.
Motivational Interviewing – this therapeutic technique increases and uses an addict’s willingness to treat his or her addiction.
Motivational Incentives – this type of therapy is often used for those addicted to substances, that uses a reward system for negative drug screening tests as a motivational tool to continue being sober.
Individual Therapy and Group Therapy – many types of therapy are used to help addicts. Group therapy can provide a group support system for addicts, while individualized therapy can get to the root of the addiction and focus upon recovery.
Therapies help to engage the addict in their treatment by modifying their attitudes about recovery and drug use while increasing their coping skills. Behavioral therapies can help to identify potential circumstantial and environmental triggers that may cause an addict to relapse. Therapy can also help enhance the effects of medications and help people to stay in treatment longer.
Recovering from addiction is a long-term process that may involve many courses of treatment, but beating an addiction can be done. Addiction is NOT a life sentence.
Rehab and Addicts:
Addiction rehabilitation is a process in which an addict becomes better through a stay at a residential addiction treatment center, hospital or outpatient setting. Addiction rehab uses a variety of programs such as combinations of the following:
- Education about addiction
- Group support
- Focusing on life skills and health.
The most effective rehabilitation centers are those that offer tailored treatment for each individual addict and last longer than six or more months.
Can Addiction Be Overcome?
Addiction, no doubt, is a highly complex problem, and overcoming addiction may seem insurmountable. However, with proper treatment and care, addiction is a disease that can be managed. Elements of a proper treatment plan for an addict include the following:
- Adhering to a proper medication regime
- Attendance of regular therapy and medical appointments.
- Creating a proper social network of those who can – and will – support you as you overcome addiction.
- Learning about addiction and treatment for addiction.
- Eating well and exercising to release stress.
- Asking for more help when it’s needed.
- Reduction of stresses in life and learning coping mechanisms for natural life events.
Remember. Addiction is NOT a life sentence.
The 12-step programs, the Anonymous Programs, cover almost every addiction:
Al-Anon/Alateen– 12-step recovery program for the families of alcoholics as alcoholism is a family disease.
Adult Children of Alcoholics– an anonymous 12-step program for adult children who grew up in an alcoholic home.
SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357) SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders
National Institute on Drug Abuse: Researches drug abuse, addiction and treatment from a scientific standpoint. Site has resources for medical professionals, teachers, parents and kids.