Addictions 101 - Realities
Addiction does not discriminate. Across the globe, people struggle to cope with a variety of experiences in life. Through misusing substances and activities that can become compulsive and dangerous, we avoid the problems and no longer have interest in seeking answers. Negative effects can be biological, emotional, cognitive, social, and/or spiritual that involves individuals, families, work, and communities.
The range of substances and activities that can become problematic or addictive are: alcohol, marijuana, illegal or street drugs, prescription drugs including pain medications, gambling, video gaming, pornography, sex, and/or eating. Many people are caught up by one or more of these.
Most people engage in the above activities without harm, so how could you recognize if you have a problem? Four factors to consider are:
NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES: When you continue to use despite negative impacts on work, family, social relationships, unpaid bills, and/or physical health.
TIME WASTED: When the activity is how most of your life is spent, this includes time spent thinking about, planning, obtaining and engaging in the activity.
TOLERANCE: When you need to use more of the substance or activity to get the same good feelings.
DEPENDENCE: When you feel sick or anxious when you are not using the substance or activity.
Addiction problems can range from mild (embarrassment, loss of money) to severe (homelessness, death). It can be compulsive (can’t control the urge to use), psychological (isolation, change or avoid emotional states), cognitive (belief you can’t live without it), or physical (craving, withdrawing the substance or activity leads to pain and suffering).
Usually, the issue causing the core difficulty preceded the addiction. It might have occurred in childhood or adulthood: abandonment or neglect, head injuries, trauma (sexual, physical, or emotional abuse) or untreated mental illness beginning in childhood or adolescence. Often, there have been injuries in primary childhood or adult attachment relationships (see my previous blogs on attachment) that both precede and follow addiction.
Identifying triggers that precede the use of an addictive substance or activity is very important. It might be a situation (other users, stress, places you’ve used before), a feeling (boredom, loneliness, worthlessness), a thought (who cares, one more won’t hurt, I won’t get caught) and/or event (argument with family, accident, criticism at work).
The good news is we understand lots about the neurosciences of what complicates addiction and facilities recovery. There are many resources for recovery from self-help groups to out-patient and residential treatment. If you have concerns about your misuse or addiction to substances or activities, reach out for help today. My next blogs will look at relationships, recovery (including mindfulness), and relapse.