Addiction is an illness that affects individuals from all walks of life. It can affect people regardless of their age, gender, race, and economic background. The trouble with addiction is that it is a gradual illness and many do not realise they have a problem until it is very serious.
Some have an idea in their head of what an addict is and, in their mind, they do not fit the profile. However, although addicts come in all shapes and sizes, they all share many of the following common characteristics:
- An addict may have tried to quit his or her drug of choice or cut down but found they were unable to do so.
- Addicts do not develop their problems overnight; they occur gradually over time and the person will have been using for quite a while.
- Addicts will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit. This could be physical symptoms if they are abusing a chemical substance such as drugs or alcohol. However, if it is an activity such as gambling to which they are addicted, the problems could be psychological.
- Addicts initially believe that their drug of choice makes them feel better and provides relief from stresses in their lives.
- Addicts will become tolerant to the substance or activity, which will cause them to need more of it to achieve the same effects.
- Some addicts use a particular substance simply because it is there. The accessibility of a particular substance or activity can prolong the desire to use.
Some people are more likely to end up with addictions than others are. Those who have suffered emotional trauma as children or who come from families where addiction was present are more likely to have what is known as ‘addictive personalities’. It is their background and environment that leads them to develop addictive behaviours.
These individuals very rarely find satisfaction in their endeavours but they will continue to look for things that will give them pleasure. They are seeking substances or activities that will replace feelings of pain or will prevent them from having to deal with memories.
Types of Tolerance
As addiction progresses, the addict becomes tolerant to the effects of his or her drug of choice. This means that the person will need more of it to achieve the same high. This is the same for substances and activities. It is not just a physical tolerance that occurs but also a psychological one. Some suffer from both physiological and psychological tolerance.
A physical tolerance occurs when a person is abusing a particular substance. As the substance enters the body, it begins to affect basic functions. The individual’s brain changes the way it functions to adapt to this new substance, and it begins to ‘expect’ it. As the body gets used to this substance, more is required to achieve the same highs as before.
Psychological tolerance occurs when a person develops a belief that he or she needs this substance to experience pleasure. They feel a need for it and believe that they have to have it at certain times or in certain situations.
Help for Addiction
It is a widely held belief by many addiction experts that anyone can beat addiction with the right help and support. No matter how serious the problem, it can be overcome. There are many different tools and techniques used, and most rehab clinics will use a combination of approaches that they best believe will help the individual.
It is no longer the case that the same treatment is used for every person. Even though most addicts share a number of characteristics, every patient should be treated as an individual and given a plan of care that will work effectively for him or her.
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