ADDICTIONS

SAIMA IBARAHIM
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Sep 27 - Oct 3, 2010

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 behaviors. Addiction is characterised 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.

Addiction is also considered as substance dependence. According to the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), substance dependence is defined as:

"When an individual persists in use of alcohol or other drugs despite problems related to use of the substance, substance dependence may be diagnosed. Compulsive and repetitive use may result in tolerance to the effect of the drug and withdrawal symptoms when use is reduced or stopped. This, along with Substance Abuse, is considered Substance Use Disorders...."

Addiction is a complex disorder characterised by compulsive drug use. People who are addicted feel an overwhelming, uncontrollable need for drugs or alcohol, even in the face of negative consequences. This self-destructive behavior can be hard to understand.

Many people, both psychology professionals and laymen, now feel that there should be accommodation made to include psychological dependency on such things as gambling, food, sex, pornography, computers, video games, internet, work, exercise, idolising, watching TV or certain types of non-pornographic videos, spiritual obsession, pain, cutting and shopping so these behaviors count as 'addictions' as well and cause guilt, shame, fear, hopelessness, failure, rejection, anxiety, or humiliation symptoms associated with, among other medical conditions, depression and epilepsy. The types of addiction that most people think of right away are those surrounding alcohol or drugs. There are other types of addictions that affect people from all backgrounds, too. It's possible to have addictions around food or other activities that produce a feeling of pleasure for the addict.

ALCOHOL ADDICTION

Alcoholism (alcohol addiction/abuse) is the consumption of or preoccupation with alcoholic beverages to the extent that this behavior interferes with the alcoholic's normal personal, family, social, or work life. The chronic alcohol consumption caused by alcoholism can result in psychological and physiological disorders.

The primary effect of alcoholism is to encourage the sufferer to drink at times and in amounts that are damaging. The secondary damage caused by an inability to control one's drinking manifests in many ways. It is common for a person suffering from alcoholism to drink well after physical health effects start to manifest. The physical health effects associated with alcohol consumption include: Cirrhosis of the liver; Halitosis (bad breath); Slurred speech; Menstrual problems; Stomach ulcer; Jaundice; Gallstones; Heart disease; Nutritional deficiencies; Sexual dysfunction; Vitamin and mineral deficiencies; Loss of appetite; Increased risk of breast, stomach and liver cancer; Impotence; and Numbness in fingers and toes. In some cases these can be fatal.

The psychological signs of alcoholism include: Poor personal hygiene; Lack of interest in one's appearance; Lack of concentration or focus; Slow reactions; Impaired judgement; Hallucinations; Anxiety/panic attacks; Depression/increased risk of suicide; Difficulties with balance; Neglecting work, family, friends etc.; Committing an offence under the influence of alcohol, e.g. drink driving; and Possibly early onset of dementia.

Drinking at inappropriate times, and behavior caused by reduced judgment, can lead to legal consequences, such as criminal charges for drunk driving or public disorder, or civil penalties for torturous behavior. An alcoholic's behavior and mental impairment while drunk can profoundly impact surrounding family and friends, possibly leading to marital conflict and divorce, or contributing to domestic violence. This can result in loss of employment. The alcoholic could suffer from loss of respect from others who may see the problem as self-inflicted and easily avoided. Heavy consumption of alcohol reduces the production of GABA, which is a neuro-inhibitor. An abrupt stop of alcohol consumption can induce a condition where neither alcohol nor GABA exists in the system in adequate quantities, causing uncontrolled firing of the synapses. This manifests as hallucinations, shakes, convulsions, seizures, and possible heart failure, all of which are collectively referred to as delirium tremens.

TREATMENTS FOR ALCOHOL ADDICTION

Treatments for alcohol addiction are quite varied because there are multiple perspectives for the condition itself.

Most treatments focus on helping people discontinue their alcohol intake, followed up with life training and/or social support in order to help them resist a return to alcohol use.

The effectiveness of alcohol addiction treatments varies widely. When considering the effectiveness of treatment options, one must consider the success rate based on those who enter a program, not just those who complete it. Since completion of a program is the qualification for success, success among those who complete a program is generally near 100 per cent. It is also important to consider not just the rate of those reaching treatment goals but the rate of those relapsing. Results should also be compared to the roughly five per cent rate at which people will quit on their own.

DRUG ADDICTION

Another type of addiction that can affect people is one where they use drugs. While some drug addicts become hooked on illegal drugs, others develop a problem with a dependence on prescription medications. Most of these are both physically and psychologically addictive. As a person continues to use the drug, they build up a tolerance to it and they need to take higher doses in an attempt to get the same effect as when they started using.

MYTHS ABOUT DRUG ADDICTION AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE

MYTH 1: Overcoming addiction is a simply a matter of willpower. You can stop using drugs if you really want to.

MYTH 2: Most experts agree that addiction is a brain disease, but that doesn't mean you're a helpless victim. The brain changes associated with addiction can be treated and reversed through therapy, medication, exercise, and other treatments.

MYTH 3: The longer drug abuse continues, the stronger the addiction becomes and the harder it is to treat.

MYTH 4: People who are pressured into treatment by their family, employer, or the legal system are just as likely to benefit as those who choose to enter treatment on their own. As they sober up and their thinking clears, many formerly resistant addicts decide they want to change.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF DRUG ABUSE AND DRUG ADDICTION

Although different drugs have different physical effects, the symptoms of addiction are the same no matter the substance. The more drugs begin to affect and control your life, the more likely it is that you've crossed the line from drug use to abuse and drug addiction.

COMMON SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF DRUG ABUSE

You're neglecting your responsibilities at school, work, or home (e.g. flunking classes, skipping work, neglecting your children) because of your drug use.

You're using drugs under dangerous conditions or taking risks while high, such as driving while on drugs, using dirty needles, or having unprotected sex.

Your drug use is getting you into legal trouble, such as arrests for disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, or stealing to support a drug habit.

Your drug use is causing problems in your relationships, such as fights with your partner or family members, an unhappy boss, or the loss of old friends.

INTERNET ADDICTION

Internet use has exploded in recent years, providing a constant, ever-changing source of information and entertainment. News headlines are updated by the minute, not just daily. You can connect with literally hundreds of people on social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, or Twitter. Email, online chat and message boards allow for both public and anonymous communication about almost any topic imaginable, down to the smallest detail. Whether people are ensnared in chat, forums, web surfing or other online pursuits, the time spent in front of the computer can escalate into addiction territory. Internet addiction is often accompanied by other types of addictions, such as an addiction to video games, porn, or online gambling. Online gaming, Internet, and e-mail addictions are a product of our modern age. Doing any of these activities in moderation is not a problem, but when a person starts engaging in them so often that they interfere with their daily activities, it's a sign of an addiction problem. If you find that being unable to play the games you enjoy, surfing the Internet or checking your e-mail makes you feel uneasy or irritable. When you feel more comfortable with your online friends than your real ones, or you can't stop yourself from playing games, gambling, or compulsively surfing, you may be an addict.

SIGNS OF UNHEALTHY COMPUTER USE

A person who is "addicted" to the computer is likely to have several of the experiences and feelings on the list below. How many of them describe you?

You have mixed feelings of well-being and guilt while at the computer.

You make unsuccessful efforts to quit or limit your computer use.

You lose track of time while on the computer.

You neglect friends, family and/or responsibilities in order to be online.

You find yourself lying to your boss and family about the amount of time spent on the computer and what you do while on it.

You feel anxious, depressed, or irritable when your computer time is shortened or interrupted.

You use the computer repeatedly as an outlet when sad, upset, or for sexual gratification.

You develop problems in school or on the job as a result of the time spent and the type of activities accessed on the computer.

When you are not on the computer, you think about it frequently and anticipate when you will use it again.

RISK FACTORS FOR INTERNET ADDICTION AND COMPUTER ADDICTION

There are some risk factors that have been identified.

If you suffer from anxiety you may use the internet to distract yourself from your worries and fears. An anxiety disorder like obsessive-compulsive disorder may also contribute to excessive email checking and compulsive internet use.

If you are depressed the internet can be an escape from feelings of depression, but too much time online can make things worse. Internet addiction further contributes to isolation and loneliness.

Many internet addicts suffer from other addictions, mainly to drugs, alcohol, gambling, and sex.

Internet addicts often use chat rooms, instant messaging, or online gaming as a safe way of establishing new relationships and more confidently relating to others.

If you're a teenager, you might be wondering where you fit in and the internet might feel more comfortable than real life friends.

SEX ADDICTION

For many people, sex is an addiction. Conquests become never-ending. The range of behaviors includes relation-hopping and mistaken addictions to what passes for love, where those affected look for love in all the wrong places and people. Sex addiction is very real, too, and the people who live with this type of problem get into a cycle where they are thinking about their last conquest or planning for the next one. They may engage in risky behaviors (having sex with strangers or prostitutes, exposing themselves, voyeurism etc.) to get the fix they crave.

The term "sexual addiction" is used to describe the behavior of a person who has an unusually intense sex drive or an obsession with sex. Sex and the thought of sex tend to dominate the sex addict's thinking, making it difficult to work or engage in healthy personal relationships.

Sex addicts engage in distorted thinking, often rationalising and justifying their behavior and blaming others for problems.

A person with a sex addiction engages in various forms of sexual activity, despite the potential for negative and/or dangerous consequences. A sexual addiction also puts the person at risk for emotional and physical injury.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I AM A SEX ADDICT?

If your sexual behaviors create legal, relationship, career, emotional or physical consequences, yet you continue to engage in those sexual behaviors anyway, then you likely have a problem. If your sexual behaviors take up more time, energy and focus than you would like or if they cause you to persistently act out in ways that go against your underlying values and beliefs, then you are likely a sex addict. Sex addicts, both men and women often find themselves thinking, "This is the last time that I am going to..." yet they ultimately feel compelled to return to the same or similar sexual situations, despite previous commitments to change.

Behaviors associated with sexual addiction include compulsive masturbation (self-stimulation), multiple affairs (extra-marital affairs), multiple or anonymous sexual partners and/or one-night stands, consistent use of pornography, unsafe sex, phone or computer sex (cybersex), prostitution or use of prostitutes, exhibitionism, obsessive dating through personal ads, voyeurism (watching others) and/or stalking, sexual harassment, and molestation/rape.

Generally, a person with a sex addiction gains little satisfaction from the sexual activity and forms no emotional bond with his or her sex partners. In addition, the problem of sex addiction often leads to feelings of guilt and shame. A sex addict also feels a lack of control over the behavior, despite negative consequences (financial, health, social, and emotional).

TREATMENT

Treatment of sexual addiction focuses on controlling the addictive behavior and helping the person develop a healthy sexuality. Treatment includes education about healthy sexuality, individual counseling, and marital and/or family therapy. Numerous professional therapists and counselors offer treatment for sexual addiction. In addition, self-help groups such as Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, Sexual Compulsives Anonymous and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous are popular with proponents of the sexual addiction concept. These are large groups based on the 12-step system of Alcoholics Anonymous. There are various online support forums for these groups as well as meetings in metropolitan areas. In some cases, medications used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder may be used to curb the compulsive nature of the sex addiction. These medications include Prozac and Anafranil.

NICOTINE ADDICTION

It's not the smoking, but the addiction to nicotine that makes it so difficult to quit. Nicotine is an addiction that comes in many forms. Smoking is less tolerated today, and those who smoke become targets. Quitting is always an option: again and again.

FOOD ADDICTIONS

Food addictions are type of addiction, and one that may not immediately come to mind. Some people become addicted to sugar or fat. Consuming a lot of these kinds of foods changes the individual's brain chemistry to the extent that they go through withdrawal if they don't keep on eating them.

Binge eating falls into this category, too. The person consumes large amounts of food in a relatively short amount of time and feels powerless to resist the urge to repeat the behavior when they feel anxious or depressed.

BEHAVIORAL ADDICTION

The term addiction is also sometimes applied to compulsions that are not substance-related, such as problems of gambling and computer addiction. In these kinds of common usages, the term addiction is used to describe a recurring compulsion by an individual to engage in some specific activity, despite harmful consequences, as deemed by the user himself to his individual health, mental state, or social life.