Addictions: An Overview

What is Addiction?

Addiction is a lifelong (chronic) illness. Individuals who are diagnosed with addiction have an uncontrollable compulsion or urge to engage in harmful activities or use dangerous substances, despite knowing the negative side effects or the impact they may have on their lives. They are psychologically or physically unable to quit, despite their honest attempts to do so.

Without proper treatment, addiction can lead to legal and financial problems, problems at work, as well as damaged relationships. Too much alcohol and drug use can cause numerous health complications that can be fatal. Treatment for addiction may involve medication, therapy, and rehabilitation.

How Common Is Addiction?

Unfortunately, addiction is actually pretty common. Close to 20 million people living in the US suffer from some form of substance addiction. A substance addiction often involves using substances that unnaturally increase levels of dopamine in the body’s reward system. These substances include alcohol, nicotine, illicit substance, and prescription painkillers. Substance use disorders are the most common type of addiction, but individuals can also suffer from behavioural disorders such as:

  • Internet and video games
  • Shopping
  • Pornography and sex addiction
  • Risky behaviours, such as shoplifting
  • Gambling
  • Eating
  • Dieting or exercising

Who Is Likely To Develop An Addiction?

Anybody can develop an addiction, but individuals with a family history of substance use are at higher risk. Individuals who suffer from mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress (PTSD) and depression are more likely to have substance addiction issues as well. Furthermore, individuals in the LGBTQ community are also vulnerable to substance and behavioural addictions because they experience a wide variety of psychiatric challenges than heterosexual people. Some of the factors that influence these experiences include problems with family relationships and discrimination.

What Are The Symptoms Of Addiction?

Addiction symptoms may differ from person to person, with some individuals experiencing functional ability in their daily living despite their addiction. They may conceal their activities or substance use from others. Conversely, other individuals may have more severe symptoms, such as:

  • Inability to stop using: The inability to stop using addictive substances or engaging in harmful behaviours is a common symptom of addiction, even if the person desires to quit. Despite repeated attempts to cut back or stop using, they find it difficult or impossible to do so.
  • Increased tolerance: As addiction progresses, individuals may develop an increased tolerance to the substance, requiring higher doses to achieve the same effect. They may also experience physiological and psychological withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop or reduce use, which can make it difficult to quit.
  • Intense focus on behaviours or substances: People with addictions often develop an obsessive fixation on substances or behaviours, leading to pathological preoccupation. The addiction can take over their lives, as they constantly crave, seek out, and ruminate on their chosen substance or behaviour, whether it be drugs, alcohol, or harmful habits. As a result, they may spend an increasing amount of time devoted to their addiction, which can have negative consequences on their daily life.
  • Lack of control: They may perceive themselves as having no control over their substance use, which can leave them feeling helpless. The weight of their addiction can cause them to feel guilty, depressed, or overwhelmed, as they contemplate the negative impact it has had on their life. When you are discovering such issues occurring, you should meet drug addiction counsellors immediately.
  • Health issues and personal problems: Addiction can have significant negative impacts on a person’s health, relationships, and career. It can lead to financial difficulties and legal issues, such as being arrested for impaired driving.
  • Withdrawal: Withdrawal symptoms are common when someone stops using addictive substances and can include physical symptoms like shaking and sweating, as well as emotional symptoms like anxiety, sadness, or anger.