Addiction and Abuse
Addiction is a chronic, relapsing condition in which the affected individual compulsively seeks and uses a substance or engages in a behaviour, regardless of the consequences. The condition is generally categorised as a brain disorder since it involves changes in the brain, which often remain even after one has stopped using drugs. The parts of the brain that are affected include the sectors involved in self-control, stress and reward systems.
Addiction can be prevented and treated in most cases, but left untreated it could even lead to fatal consequences.
Types of Addiction
There are two major categories of addiction: substance addictions and behavioural addictions.
Substance addiction involves the addiction to physical substances, especially psychoactive ones such as alcohol and opiates. People can also become addicted to prescription medications. Psychoactive substances can cause temporary chemical changes to the brain which lead to tolerance, dependency, and then addiction. In this case, people become dependent on the chemicals within the drugs or the ones in the brain which become affected by them.
Behavioural addiction includes gambling, sex addiction and gaming addiction, among others. While gambling is currently the only officially recognised addiction of this category, many psychologists and other healthcare professionals argue that behavioural addictions should be officially recognised because they can also cause feelings of anxiety, rejection, hopelessness, shame, and so on. Most others in the group are now classified as “disorders”.
Statistics on Addiction
- In 2016, England and Wales recorded 2,593 deaths in connection to drug abuse, the highest since records began in 1993.
- In England and Wales, approximately 8.5% of adults between the ages of 16 and 59 had consumed an illegal drug in the past year.
- In England, 7,545 people were admitted into the hospital for drug-related behavioural and mental health disorders in 2016/17.
- Within the same timeframe, 14,053 people were admitted into the hospital for poisoning by illegal substances.
What’s the Difference between Substance Abuse and Addiction?
Substance abuse occurs when someone uses an illicit drug such as cocaine or when they use a legal drug, such as prescription medication or alcohol in ways or amounts that they’re not meant to be used. For instance, using prescription medicines at higher doses or crushing them and mixing with another substance.
Abuse does not necessarily lead to addiction,
but it can, depending on the drug in question, how it’s used, how often it’s used and in what dosages. Some drugs can cause addiction quicker than others, for instance, you can become addicted to heroin after using it only a few times while you could use cannabis for months without developing a full-blown addiction. Drug abuse can be as dangerous as addiction because it can also cause an overdose.
Why Do People Use Drugs?
Whether it’s alcohol or cocaine, there are a number of reasons people want to take psychoactive substances:
- Social pressure and curiosity: This applies more to adolescents, as they are more inclined than adults to take risks to impress their peers.
- To get “high”: Some substances will cause a feeling of euphoria associated with increased energy or feelings of power, while others will cause feelings of satisfaction or relaxation. Many people use drugs recreationally, for this reason.
- To improve performance: Whether it’s to improve at school or work, you might think drugs will boost your focus or improve your performance in
- To feel better: If you suffer from depression, stress or social anxiety, it might seem like a good idea to pop some pills to help you feel better.
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What Causes Addiction?
There are various factors which can contribute to the development of an addiction, and some of them mean some people are more predisposed to developing it than others.
- Genetics: If you have a close family member who has an addiction, you’ll be more likely to develop an addiction than someone who doesn’t. Studies have suggested that genetic factors can contribute as much as 50% to 60% towards the development of an addiction.
- Inability to properly cope with stress: When you are stressed, you’re likely to want to relax and escape, and the easiest way to do that at the moment may seem to be consuming alcohol.
- Underlying depression or anxiety: Called a dual diagnosis, a significant number of people with addiction also have co-occurring depression or anxiety. Using drugs and alcohol to escape is a natural course for many, but addiction will eventually worsen the symptoms.
Consequences of Addiction
The consequences of addiction can take various forms, from physical and psychological, to emotional and social. If left untreated, addiction could cause:
- Problems at work: A job may be the last thing to suffer because people need the money to keep buying drugs, but it can happen so quickly we often don’t realise what’s happening until it’s gone. It may start with missing deadlines and performing less than is expected and it may then progress to missing work because we’re too stoned to leave the bed.
- Loss of self-esteem: Losing our self-esteem can happen if we have lived a double life and become so disappointed in ourselves that all that’s left is guilt and shame.
- Damage to personal relationships: Addiction can cause a loss of all the meaningful relationships in life. Because of hurting our loved ones and continuingly disappointing them, relationships may suffer irreversible damage.
- Serious health dangers: Whether by overdose or physical health problems resulting from long-term substance use, an addiction can even cause fatal consequences.
- Severely injuries: Driving when intoxicated can result in an accident, which can lead to serious injury.
Risk Factors of Addiction
There are several factors that can make you more predisposed to developing an addiction, however, it doesn’t mean that you will absolutely develop an addiction if any of these apply to you.
These include your genes and other factors such as ethnicity, gender or stage of development. Teens are at greater risk of developing an addiction as are people with mental health problems.
A child’s or teen’s environment can increase their risk of developing an addiction. For instance, if you grew up around parents who used drugs or if you have peers at school who use drugs. This is why peer pressure is one of the most often cited causes for addiction.
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Addiction is an illness of the brain. However, it is an illness that carries a lot of stigma. There is a misconception that those with addiction are bad or weak people, but this is not the case. The truth is that those affected by addiction are suffering from an illness in the same way that those with diabetes or cancer have an illness.
Most people think of substances such as alcohol or drugs when they think of addiction but,
in reality, it is possible to become addicted to almost anything. When a person takes a specific substance or engages in a particular activity and cannot stop even if he or she wants to, it is known as having an addiction. Some individuals develop addictions to gambling, sex, shopping, food, pornography, the internet, their smartphones, and nicotine.
Nobody chooses to become an addict. They do not start taking drugs or drinking alcohol with the intention of becoming hooked. However, over time, they may begin to develop a tolerance to the effects of these substances until such a time that they cannot stop, even if they want to. This is because addiction changes the way the brain functions.
Those with addiction tend to become obsessed with whatever it is they are addicted to. It becomes the most important thing in their life, and the affected individual may neglect other responsibilities to their spouse, children, friends, or work. The need to satisfy the craving can lead to them cheating and hurting those they love the most in the world. People with addiction will continue with their destructive behaviour regardless of the fact that there will be negative consequences.
The Stages of Addiction
For most, addiction is not a sudden occurrence. This devastating illness tends to develop gradually, and most individuals pass through various stages before actually becoming addicted to a substance or activity. Although addiction affects people differently depending on what they are addicted to, those who develop drug or alcohol addictions tend to follow the same path and go through the same stages.
- Exposure – Exposure or experimentation is the first stage. This is when individuals first try alcohol or drugs. Everyone has a reason for drinking or taking drugs; it could be out of curiosity, or it could be peer pressure. Some turn to these substances to help them cope with the stresses of everyday life or a previous traumatic experience.
- Habitual Use – Those who have enjoyed their first experience with drugs or alcohol may do it again. If the person continues to enjoy the effects, he or she may become a habitual user. Not every habitual user will progress to the next stage of addiction. Many go their whole lives habitually using drugs or alcohol.
- Substance Abuse – When a person builds up a tolerance to drugs or alcohol, he or she begins to take more and more of it in order to experience the same effects as before. Nevertheless, the more he or she drinks or the more drugs used, the more chance of negative consequences. Some people view these negative consequences as a sign that it is time to stop while others will ignore them altogether and will carry on abusing the substance.
- Dependence – Dependence occurs when a person begins to lose control over their substance use and feels as though they need to drink or take drugs to feel better. They will be reluctant to stop even if the negative consequences are now worse than before.
- Addiction – Once a person has become physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol or drugs, he or she will be addicted. The individual will be unable to stop, even if he or she wanted to. The person will probably suffer withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop, and will learn quite quickly that these symptoms will subside upon having a drink or taking the drug.
Risk Factors for Addiction
Not every person who takes drugs or drinks alcohol will become addicted, in the same way that not every person who shops or gambles will develop an addiction. Some people are just more susceptible to addiction than others are, and there are also a number of risk factors that make a person more likely to develop addiction. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that having a risk factor or a number of risk factors does not mean that that individual will automatically develop an addiction.
- Family History – Research has shown that those with a family history of addiction are more likely to develop addictions themselves. Those who have a biological parent with an alcohol addiction are four times more likely to develop an addiction themselves.
- Traumatic Experiences – People who have unresolved trauma in their lives have a higher chance of developing addiction. This could include: physical, mental or sexual abuse; witnessing combat; neglect; the death of a loved one; being bullied; or, living with a mentally ill parent. Those who have experienced more than one traumatic experience have an even higher risk of developing addiction.
- Environment – Environmental factors such as the place where a person grew up, their friends, family members, and quality of life can all affect a person’s chances of developing addictions in later life.
- Age – The younger a person is exposed to substances such as alcohol or drugs, the greater the chance of this individual being affected by addiction. Many addicts experienced drugs or alcohol for the first time before the age of eighteen.
The Consequences of Addiction
Addiction is an illness that affects all areas of a person’s life. Becoming dependent on a particular substance or activity becomes an obsession that negatively affects physical and mental health, relationships, and work life.
Many people with addiction will neglect important areas of their lives as they become obsessed with drugs, alcohol, gambling, or whatever else it is they are addicted to. This will become the most important thing to the person, and everything else takes a back seat. This may lead to a breakdown in relationships and financial struggles.
Help for Addiction
Thankfully, addiction is an illness that can be treated; here at Addiction Helper, we have a team of experienced counsellors, therapists and support staff waiting to offer advice and support to those who need it. If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, get in touch with us now so that we can provide information on treatments available for your type of addiction.
We can provide you with a fully comprehensive assessment so you know exactly what you are dealing with. We will then provide you with information on the most suitable treatment providers for your needs.
Our staff are compassionate and caring, and anything you tell them will be dealt with in the strictest confidence. Call today for more information.
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