What is Addiction?
No one starts out with the intention of developing an addiction. In the beginning, you might simply be engaging in an activity that you really enjoy – like having a glass or two of wine with dinner, or playing your favourite video game. But over time, the activity gradually develops into a regular habit and you start doing it more and more. At some point, it might start to feel like a necessity – like you can’t get through the day without it. This addictive feeling could be psychological, as in the case of gaming or gambling, or it might also come with a physiological aspect, as is the case with most drugs and alcohol.
Either way, addicted behaviour tends to wreak havoc on our lives and on our relationships.
Do I have an Addiction?
If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the following questions, you may have a problem with addiction:
• Do you use the substance, or engage in the behaviour more than you used to?
• Do you have cravings for the substance or behaviour when you aren’t engaging in it?
• Do you have withdrawal symptoms when you don’t have the substance or engage in the behavior?
• Has anyone close to you told you that they are worried about your abuse of a substance or behaviour?
• Have you ever lied to anyone about your use of the substance or extent of your behavior?
Addiction alters the reward and motivation systems in your brain. These changes make it difficult for you to control your behaviour and make the right choices, despite the adverse consequences. For example, you might not be able to resist using cocaine, even though you know it will damage your work and family life. Or, you may gamble money that you can’t afford, and lie to your partner to cover it up.
When most people think about addiction, alcohol or drug abuse is usually the first thing that comes to mind. However, you can also be addicted to a behaviour, as well as to a substance.
Common substances of abuse include:
• Illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, heroin or ecstasy
• Prescription medications such as valium, codeine or oxycodone .
Common behavioural addictions include:
Binge drinking is a form of alcoholism associated with short bouts of heavy use. Typically, a binge drinker goes hard on drinks (and often drugs) on a Friday night, and might not re-surface until Monday morning. Binge drinking becomes a problem when it starts to impede on work capacity and on personal relationships. Binge drinking is a very common presentation in Australian culture.
What is a Craving?
A craving is an intense and overwhelming desire for something, and is a symptom of addiction. Cravings tend to be associated with feelings of powerlessness and a sense that you are not in control of your addiction. Craving can cause serious disruptions to your life. For example, you might be sitting at work and feel compulsions to go and have another cigarette, or visit a pornography site, impairing your ability to concentrate and get your job done.
What is Withdrawal?
Withdrawal occurs when you consume a substance for a long time and then stop taking it suddenly. It is a genuine physiological reaction which causes your body to react adversely to dis-use of the substance. This is because your body has become so used to the drug and thinks it needs it to maintain equilibrium.
Indeed, a common physiological symptom of drug addiction is that, as use continues and your body gets more and more familiar with the drug, it requires greater and greater quantities to achieve the same initial ‘high’ as was experienced with first use. In fact, a substance addict typically needs a large injection of drugs just to feel ‘normal’.
Withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on the type of addiction, however, they commonly include:
• Difficulty concentrating
Treatment for Addiction
- help you understand your addictive personality and what underlies your addictive behaviour
- give you other tools and strategies to help you deal with life’s difficulties as they arise
- provide emotional support as your disengage from your addiction
Note that if you are dependent on using drugs or alcohol on a daily basis, and you believe that your addiction is physical, then you may need to attend an in-patient program to rid your body of the physiological effects of the substance so that you can stop using. Of course, even in this situation, counselling is an essential part of the recovery process
If an addiction is threatening to overwhelm your life, seek the help of a health professional. Acknowledging that you have a problem and need help, is the first step towards getting your life back on track.
To discuss addiction counselling and treatment options contact us today.