What is addiction
Addiction affects people regardless of their age, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, culture, education or occupation. People with an addiction do not have control over what they are doing, taking or using.
Types of Addiction
Addictions do not only involve physical things we ingest, such as drugs or alcohol, but may include almost anything, ranging from gambling to seemingly harmless things, such as chocolate. Addiction may refer to a substance dependence (e.g. drug addiction) or behavioral addiction (e.g. gambling addiction).
Psychological dependency, as may be the case with gambling, sex, internet, work, exercise, etc. should also be considered addiction, because these activities can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, hopelessness, despair, failure, rejection, anxiety and/or humiliation.
Signs and symptoms
- The person takes the substance and cannot stop - At least one serious attempt was made to give up, but without success.
- Withdrawal symptoms - Some examples are: cravings, bouts of moodiness, bad temper, poor focus, a feeling of being depressed and empty, frustration, anger, bitterness and resentment, insomnia, constipation or diarrhea, violence, trembling, seizures, hallucinations and sweats.
- Addiction continues despite health problem awareness - The individual continues taking the substance regularly, even though they have developed illnesses linked to it.
- Social and/or recreational sacrifices - Activities are given up because of an addiction to a substance. An addicted individual may turn down an invitation to go camping if the substance will not be available.
- Excess consumption - Consuming a large amount of the substance.
- Taking risks - The addicted person may take risks to make sure he/she can access his/her substance, such as stealing or trading sex for money or the drug of choice or while under the influence of a substance the individual may partake in risky activities, such as driving fast.
- Dealing with problems - A person with an addiction often feels they need their drug to deal with problems.
- Obsession - An addicted individual may spend more time and energy focusing on ways of getting their substance and how to use it.
- Secrecy and solitude - Taking the substance alone or secretively.
- Denial - Not being aware a problem exists or refusing to admit it.
- Dropping hobbies and activities - The person may stop doing things he/she used to enjoy doing.
- Having stashes - Addicted individuals may have their substance hidden in different parts of the house or car.
- Having problems with the law - Can either be because the substance impairs judgment and the person takes risks they would not take if they were sober, or breaking the law as a way of getting the substance.
- Financial difficulties - The addicted person may sacrifice a lot to make sure their supply is secured.
- Relationship problems - Romantic relationships, relationships with siblings, parents, and friends.
- Genetics (family history) - Anyone who has a close relative with an addiction problem has a higher risk of developing one themselves.
- Gender - Males are at a greater risk than females.
- Family behavior - People who do not have strong relationships with their parents and siblings have a higher risk of becoming addicted to a substance, compared to people with deep family attachments.
- Having a mental illness/condition.
- Loneliness - Away from home for the first time, having trouble meeting people.
- The nature of the substance - Some substances, such as crack, heroin or cocaine can bring about addiction more quickly than others.
- Age when substance was first consumed - Individuals who consume a drug earlier in life have a higher risk of becoming addicted than those who started later.
- Health - Addiction to a substance can have health consequences. Negative health impacts vary depending on the substance.
- Coma, unconsciousness or death - Some drugs taken in high doses or in combination with other substances may be extremely dangerous.
- Some diseases - People who inject drugs and share needles risk contracting HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C. Some substances can lead towards risky sexual behavior (unprotected sex), increasing the probability of developing sexually transmitted Infections.
- Relationship problems
- Accidental injuries/death - This risk is higher in individuals with addictions.
- Suicide - Certain addictions can significantly increase the risk of suicide.
- Child neglect/abuse - Certain addictions in parents increase the likelihood that their children will experience neglect and/or abuse.
- Unemployment, poverty and homelessness - A significant number of people with addiction find themselves without work or a place to live.
- Problems with the law