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What is Addiction?
Addiction is defined as a chronic disorder that has biological, psychological, environmental, and social factors that influence the development and progression of addiction. Approximately half of the risk for addiction is genetic.
In 2014, an estimated 21.5 Million Americans (12+ years) reported having a substance use disorder, and nearly 80% reported having an alcohol use disorder. Additionally, in 2014, 7+ Million Americans reported having a drug use disorder and 1 of 8 individuals reported battling alcohol and drug use disorders simultaneously.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that in 2014, nearly 8 million Americans were treated for co-occurring disorders: mental health and substance use. The office on National Drug Control Policy reports that drug abuse addiction has cost the American society approximately $200 billion in healthcare, criminal justice, legal and lost off workplace production/participation.
The National Health Service of the UK reported that in 2015 and 2016, there were 8,621 hospital admissions with a primary diagnosis of drug-related mental health and 15,074 hospital admissions with a primary diagnosis of poisoning by illicit drugs. In 2015, there were approximately 2,479 registered deaths related to drug misuse in England and Wales.
The Difference between Habit and Addiction
Habits are defined as sequences of action, that are automatic and occur without conscious thought. Habits and Addictions differ in that habits only become addictions once a chemical dependency is developed. Drug addiction is a disease that affects an individual's brain and behaviour and leads to the inability to control the use of a substance (drug or medication).
Signs of Addiction
Signs and symptoms of addiction can vary, but common signs entail an individual making choices between financial and social well-being at the expense of the drug use. For example, spending money to obtain the drug when they cannot afford it, the inability to meet obligations and work responsibilities, and withdrawing from social or recreational activities due to drug use are symptoms of drug use. Additionally, experiencing withdrawal and failed attempts to quit the drug are indicative of an addiction.
Causes of Addiction
Causes for addiction can vary but the primary factors appear to be Environment and Genetics. Specific risk factors affect an addiction being developed and they include: family history of addiction, mental health disorder, peer pressure, age of first use, and taking a highly addictive drug.
Types of Addiction
Types of Addiction include:
- Gambling Addiction can be defined as the urge to keep gambling despite the toll it takes on your life. Gambling addiction stimulates the brain’s reward system in a similar way that drugs and alcohol can, leading to addiction. Causes of gambling addiction are unclear, but may result from biological, genetic, and environment factors. Risk factors include: Mental health disorders, age, sex, family or friend influence, specific medications and personality characteristics.
- Sex Addiction is also called Hyper-sexuality. Sex addiction is created by the powerful chemical substances that are released during sex. Sex addiction is the excessive preoccupation with sexual fantasies, urges or behaviours that is difficult to control, causes you distress, or negatively affects your health, job, relationships or other parts of your life. Causes associated with sexual addiction are unclear, however, addiction can be linked to an imbalance of natural brain chemicals, changes in brain pathways, and conditions that affect the brain. Symptoms of sexual addition include recurring and intense sexual urges and behaviours that are uncontrollable, engaging in sexual behaviour that has serious consequences such as spreading sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and difficulty establishing and maintaining stable and healthy relationships.
- Shopping addiction, also known as compulsive buying disorder, or compulsive shopping, can be described as the compulsion to spend money, regardless of need or financial means.
- Alcohol Addiction is considered the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States with an estimated 17.6 million people suffering from alcohol abuse/dependence. Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction include loss of control in regard to amount consumed by an individual. Withdrawal symptoms occur once consumption is stopped: the individual may become shaky, sweaty, sick, or anxious. Frequency of consumption may be increased to daily and consumption is a focal point of their life - the individual may spend copious amounts of time drinking and great effort to conceal behaviours from friends and family.
- Internet addiction is considered to be an impulse disorder and has a similar impact on the brain as a gambling addiction. Some internet users develop an emotional attachment to their virtual life: friends and activities they have created online. Individuals may substitute their internet use for in-person human connection. Signs and symptoms of internet addiction include preoccupation with the internet to a degree that disrupts activities of daily living and intrude on professional and personal success. Individuals may lie about usage in an attempt to conceal the extent and length of usage and may demonstrate the inability to control or minimize usage.
- Smoking Addiction is considered to be a nicotine addiction and this is the primary reason that individuals persist in use of tobacco. The primary criteria for smoking addiction are rooted in the behaviors of highly controlled or impulsive use that are accompanied by psychoactive effects. Additionally, key criteria for smoking addiction are the behaviors around the addiction: repeated and compulsive self-administration, absence of control, motivation to seek and use the product, and manifestation of dependence. According to the Centers for Disease and Control in the United States, Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. Cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans each year, with more than 41,000 of these deaths from exposure to secondhand smoke. In addition, smoking-related illness in the United States costs more than $300 billion a year, including nearly $170 billion in direct medical care for adults and $156 billion in lost productivity. In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service reported that in 2015, there were estimated to be around 79 thousand deaths attributable to smoking, down from 88 thousand in 2005, but up from 78 thousand in 2014.In 2015, an estimated 15.1% (36.5 million) U.S. adults were current* cigarette smokers. Of these, 75.7% (27.6 million) smoked every day, and 24.3% (8.9 million) smoked some days. Signs and symptoms of a nicotine dependence include an inability to stop, experiencing withdrawal symptoms during attempts to stop, continuing to the engage in the behavior despite risks to yourself, and discontinuing social or recreational activities at the expense of smoking.
Treatment for Addiction
Treatment will be subjective to the individual and problem they are being treated for. Additionally, the modality for treatment will be determined by you and your therapist working together to collectively resolve the issue at hand. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is used to help identify thoughts and behaviors that support addiction. CBT is a critical therapy to use when treating as addiction as our cognition impacts well-being and altering thought patterns is instrumental in overcoming addiction. CBT is goal-oriented form of therapy and benefits in use by allowing therapists and consumers to work together and identify and process patterns of behavior that lead to self-destructive actions and beliefs. Additionally, using CBT can help identify coping skills and create healthy and positive solutions to combat behaviour of addiction.
For more information about talking therapies and treatment programmes available at our Clinics in London, Milan and Rome please visit our Treatment page.
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Further Reading about Addiction
Addiction is very powerful but can often be managed with treatment and motivation of the individual. Please click here to view a comprehensive list of websites about living with addiction. Additionally, click here to view a list of 25 blogs about addiction.