Addiction: What Is It?
Millions of people all over the world deal with the compulsive desire to use alcohol or drugs regularly, and oftentimes, this desire becomes more important than anything else in life. It can even become more essential to the user than the need to sleep or eat. Addiction is a disease that affects how the brain works, and the end result is an individual that can’t control how often drugs or alcohol are used.
When the urge to use drugs or alcohol is too strong to control, it becomes an addiction. The need to get and use drugs becomes extremely important, and the user’s thoughts center around this need. Drug and alcohol addiction may replace every single thing you once enjoyed, and you may find yourself doing things you never would have before in order to get to alcohol or drugs.
Many times, addicts end up in stealing, lying or hurting people to get the drugs they need. Some even end up in jail.
Alcohol and drug addiction is a serious problem, and one that should be addressed head on before too much damage is done to the life of the individual and those they love.
Addiction As a Disease
Some think it is a simple matter of making better choices to overcome an alcohol or drug addiction, but the truth is that addiction is a disease that totally affects the brain. It changes how the brain operates, and those changes can last for years after drug or alcohol use has stopped. Many addicts deal with memory loss, trouble making decisions, thinking, and mood swings for long periods of time after getting sober or clean. Addiction is more than a weakness; it is an actual disease that affects people from all backgrounds and of all ages.
How to Define Addiction
According to the World Health Organization and the American Psychiatric Association, an individual must have three of the following behaviors in order to classify a usage as an addiction.
|Desire to quit or cut back||Many addicts have the desire to quit or cut back, but simply can’t do it on their own.|
|Significant amount of energy or time spent||When thoughts of drugs or alcohol consume your every waking thought, treatment may be necessary.|
|Postponed or neglected activities||Addicts often put off household, work, recreational, or social activities in order to use.|
|Negative consequences||Trouble occurs when an individual continues using despite serious negative consequences with family, job, health, self-esteem and mood.|
|Limited control||Most addicts feel like they have limited control over how often they use drugs or alcohol, and once the process starts, it’s difficult to stop.|
|Withdrawal||Addicts experience emotional or physical withdrawal when attempts are made to stop using, and deal with symptoms like irritability, vomiting, nausea, sweats, shakes and anxiety.|
|Tolerance||Over time, an addict will use more alcohol and drugs to achieve the same high, because the body has developed a tolerance to the substance.|
If you deal with three or more of these symptoms, or see the signs in the life of someone you know, it may be time to seek help for a drug or alcohol addiction.
Addiction is more common in society than diseases like diabetes. Experts believe that close to 10% of any population is addicted to alcohol or drugs. Addiction knows no bounds, stretching across boundaries such as age, gender, socioeconomic status, and career. If you have a genetic predisposition for an addiction, then it may be even more difficult to restrain yourself from drugs and alcohol, particularly after you’ve tried them.
Addiction knows no bounds, stretching across boundaries such as age, gender, socioeconomic status, and career.
What Are the Causes of Addiction?
Drug and alcohol addiction are more complicated than making a choice to stop or quit. Oftentimes, the habit of using alcohol or drugs can turn into an addiction before you realize there is a problem. Addiction can most often be tied to three things:
- Changes in the brain
There are risk factors that increase the likelihood of addiction, including the following:
- Depress, anxiety and loneliness
- Other mental health disorders
- Being male
- Family history
- Lack of family interaction and involvement
- Peer pressure
- Using highly addictive drugs
While addiction has no boundaries, these things often make it more likely that an addiction will develop over time. These factors may also increase the speed at which an addiction is developed.
What Are the Warning Signs of Addiction?
If you or someone you know is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, getting the right treatment is imperative to safety and security in the future. Some of the warning signs associated with addiction are:
- Issues with physical health
- Changes in typical behavior
- Spending money at a faster rate than normal
- Problems at work or school
- Compulsion to get and use drugs or alcohol
- Sudden disinterest in things that used to bring joy
- Neglected appearance
Treatments are different based on the type of addiction and the individual seeking help, but fortunately an alcohol or drug addiction isn’t a death sentence. The longer drugs and alcohol are used regularly, the more damage is done, and so seeking help quickly is an important step to overcoming an addiction. Family members can help the addict to see the need for help, and addicts can seek help on their own when the desire to use becomes overwhelming.
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Treatment often involves some combination of counseling, detoxification, self-help groups and chemical dependence treatment programs. All steps are essential to helping the individual overcome their addiction and lead a happy, healthy, functional life. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, know that hope is just a phone call away.