Addiction Is Not All About Substance Abuse

Just before we go ahead to answer the question on who can get addicted, let’s quickly review what an addiction is. Most clinical psychologist agree with the definition of addiction as the excessive, uncontrollable use of a substance or a behavior, despite its known destructive effects.

Addiction is quite different from a normal healthy excessive enthusiasm about something or a habitual behavior. In general, healthy habitual behaviors usually do not “take away” from your life, but addictions most certainly “takes away” from your life.

Someone can be overly excited about taking ice cream or watching a football match, but that doesn’t mean he or she is addicted to ice cream or football; that’s just a healthy excessive enthusiasm. For anything to be considered as an addiction, it must have the following six key components :

  1. Salience : The substance or activity becomes the most important thing for that person. The person gives priority to that activity or substance over other salient aspects or components of his life.
  2. Mood modification : That activity or substance have become what that individual resorts to alter his mood. The person always needs that substance or activity to feel happy, relaxed, excited or stimulated.
  3. Tolerance : Over time, the person needs more and more of that substance or activity to get the desired mood effects. That person’s tolerance of the drug or activity is increasing.
  4. Conflict : The use of that substance or activity is affecting the person’s work, school, hobbies or relationships. That activity or substance use will always be springing up conflicts in the person’s life.
  5. Withdrawal symptoms : These are certain symptoms that the individual begins to have when he or she does not have access to that substance or activity.
  6. Relapse : That individual must have tried to stop using the substance or activity but failed. The person finds himself or herself going back to that same activity or substance after a while.

Addiction has been classified into two, namely: behavioural addiction and substance abuse. More serious examples of substance abuse include illicit drug use like cocaine, marijuana, e.t.c., cigarette smoking and alcoholism. Behavioural addictions include activities like gambling, excessive internet use (especially social media), gaming, work, shopping, sex, exercise, e.t.c.

Who Can Get Addicted?

Anybody can get addicted to any particular substance or activity. Though the cause of addiction is not well understood by scientists, studies show that there is a link between the chemical balance in the brain and addiction.

The brain and it’s activities are mediated by chemicals called neurotransmitters of which dopamine and serotonin have been discovered to play a role in addictions. Whenever a person engages in an addictive activity or uses an addictive substance, dopamine levels rise and this imbalance is what tells the person to keep taking more of that substance or doing more of that activity, hence the addiction.

There are other factors too that have been shown to contribute to addiction in individual’s. They include :

  1. Personal biological factors : This includes a person’s age, sex, family history and genetics. The risk of addiction increases if the person is exposed to the substance or activity at an early age. Men have been shown to be more at risk of addiction than women, and having a family member who’s addicted to a substance or activity increases the risk of addiction.
  2. Social environment : Living or growing up in an environment where the use of addictive substances or activities are legalized or rampant increases ones risk of addiction.
  3. Personal psychological factors : This includes the person’s personality type, beliefs and other mental problems like depression. Moody individuals and people suffering from depression are more likely to resort to substance abuse.
  4. The substance or activity itself : Some substances or activities are more addictive than others. Cocaine is more addictive than alcohol, likewise gambling is more addictive than exercise. Exposure to highly addictive substances and activities increases the risk of addiction.

How Addiction Affects Life

All the forms of addiction affects one area or the other in an individual’s life. The negative effects of addiction could be as a result of actually using the substance and activity or as a withdrawal symptom. The more common ways in which addiction affect life include :

Physiological effects : A person can suffer from blackouts, tremors, different systemic diseases and even death depending on the particular substance the person is addicted to.

Psychological effects : Addiction could give rise to bad temper, poor focus, hallucinations, guilt, shame, sense of failure, rejection, depression, anxiety, bitterness and suicidal thoughts.

Social effects : Addictions give rise to relationship problems, divorce and pushes the individual into secretiveaness and solitude, away from healthy social interactions.

Financial effects : When the person’s work or school is affected by the addiction, it makes it difficult for that person to earn a living. Some substances are very expensive and also in the case of gambling, a person could gamble away his entire funds. All these can lead to bankruptcy.

Environmental effects : In this case, a person’s addiction can affect his environment in the forms of increased crimes and violence. Those who drive end up causing accidents which could result in loss of lives or property in the community.

Can People Recover From Addictions?

People can recover from their addictions. There are those whose addictions are not very severe and so with a little positive influence and motivation from friends and family or even self-motivation, can naturally recover from their addiction.

In the situation where the person is unable to recover naturally, the next step is to use a support community or peer-based network to deal with his addiction. This is where group therapy comes in and being in such groups with other people who have similar addictions and working to recover from their addictions may just be the way out for that person. Most of these groups have developed a standard module for which addicts can be helped out of their addiction problems within scheduled durations.

For severe cases of addiction, clinical-based recovery is the option. This involves treatment at hospital facilities equipped for addiction problems and the use of medications like antidepressants, SSRIs, or even certain surgeries to help the individual recover from his or her addiction. The best prevention against addiction still remains to stay away from those addictive substances and activities.

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