Discovering the Truth about Addictions
Are you worried that you or someone close to you is suffering from an addiction? If so, we can help! Our addiction pages give you all the information and facts specific to each substance addiction, process addiction (activity) and dependency. If you or a loved one are suffering from a substance abuse problem or an addiction or dependency to alcohol, illicit, legal or prescription drugs, it is important to arm yourself with the facts and the latest in evidence based treatments that are available. We also cover process addictions; this is where an individual becomes addicted to a particular activity. Process addictions are just as harmful as substance addictions and carry very similar consequences to the individual sufferer and also to their loved ones and family. Common examples of process addictions are gambling, co-dependency, and sex and love addiction. In this section you will learn about dual diagnosis, co-occurring illnesses, alcohol, illegal drugs, over the counter medicines, prescription drugs and activity based process addictions. Using our vast experience in the field of addiction treatment, we will also tell you the signs and symptoms to look out for, that would indicate immediate professional help is required.
Your road to a healthy, long-term recovery starts here.
Addiction, regardless of the substance or activity the individual is addicted to, has a far reaching ripple effect; that not only endangers the individual addicted, but also causes untold amounts of pain, stress, fear and consequences to loved ones, family members, friends, work colleagues, and the local community.
Addiction is now recognised by Public England Health and medical professionals around the world as a “chronic relapsing brain disease”. The individual affected is not in control of their thoughts or actions, as the crux of the problem ultimately resides in the addict’s brain; in their core belief systems, thought processes, obsessive thinking, compulsions and subsequent actions. The individual suffering from addiction is not at fault for having the disease of addiction, but they are responsible for taking the correct steps to ensure that they receive appropriate treatment for their condition.
Addiction is a progressive illness; over any given period of time the individual will only get worse without the correct help, support and treatment. Once trapped in the downward spiral of chronic alcohol, drug abuse or a process addiction, they can look forward to a steady deterioration in their life, circumstances and relationships. If they are unable to escape their addiction they will be heading towards insanity and an early death. Addiction is a very serious illness, one that claims lives needlessly on a daily basis. We want to emphasise that with the correct treatment, recovery IS possible and there is hope. We can help you find the correct treatment and support for your individual treatment needs and circumstances. This is what we specialise in; to help the still suffering addict and their family to find recovery and healing from the deadly disease of addiction.
What Is Addiction?
The word addiction tends to be overused and applied to any examples of overindulgence. In reality something is only really an addiction when it begins to cause problems and consequences for the individual and those who are close to them. When it comes to alcohol and drugs it is said that addiction involves both physical and psychological dependence. However there does not need to be a physical dependence…in other words the individual does not NEED to have a certain drug or behaviour in order to stay alive. Yes it is true, that through addiction to some substances, i.e. alcohol and drugs a physical dependence can develop, but this does not have to be the case for an individual to be an addict.
Physically addicts react differently to a certain substance or activity from others. Psychologically is where the crux of the problem lies, whether there is a physical dependence or not. Those that get addicted to an activity such as gambling or sex, do not need the activity in order to live. Psychologically they are dependent on the activity but not physically. Below is a breakdown of addiction to help you understand exactly how it manifests and the associated common terminologies:
- The individual needs the substance whether it be alcohol, drugs or prescription drugs in order to function on a basic level. They have built a tolerance to it. Using the original amount will not have the same effect as it once did, so they increase the amount of the substance in order to gain the desired effect.
- The individual will develop unpleasant withdrawal symptoms should they attempt to reduce their intake of the drug or quit altogether. It is the fear of these withdrawal symptoms that can make many individuals reluctant to seek help and end their addiction. Depending on the substance they are physically dependent on, abrupt or unmanaged withdrawal can be life threatening and should always be overseen by an experienced addiction and medical professional
- In all addictions there is a psychological dependence present. The addict is compelled to use a substance or activity to change the way that they feel inside; to manage emotions or just live everyday life. They have no control over the psychological aspect of addiction, which compels them to continue in their addiction regardless of the mounting consequences and danger to themselves and to others. The compulsion is overwhelming and manifests in an obsession that over rides any rational thought process; it is only relieved once the addict has drank, used or acted out.
- As a chronic relapsing brain disease, the other aspect of psychological addiction is that they are addicted to the endorphins and brains pleasurable chemicals that are released through a particular process addiction (activity) or the effects of a particular substance.
The Physical Reaction of an Addict
- An addict’s brain reward system reacts differently to a non-addict’s. The pleasurable effects experienced are far greater than someone who does not suffer from addiction. This applies to both substance and non-substance addictions. In addition once they have succumbed to the compulsion, they develop an overwhelming craving for more and more. With substances such as drugs and alcohol, they are rarely satisfied until they reach the point of oblivion or passing out.
- Addiction is usually accompanied with certain behaviours alongside the actual addiction itself. These maladaptive means of coping can be as destructive to the person’s life as the actual addiction.
Tolerance is the professional terminology applied to an individual who has become physically tolerant or dependent to a substance such as alcohol or a drug. For example: an individual who used to drink 1 bottle of wine a night, will find over time that this no longer satisfies their cravings, so they will increase the amount they drink. They then become tolerant to this amount and so increase it again and again, and so on and so on. The same applies to illicit, legal and prescription drugs that have the potential to be abused or are physically addictive. The body and brain’s chemistry adjust to having a certain amount of the substance in their system; they have become tolerant to it and so it does not have the same effect it used to. Taking any less will lead to withdrawal symptoms, as again the body and brain’s chemistry will have to adapt to the reduction. In cases where an individual goes “cold turkey” (ceases the drink or drug completely and promptly), the body can go into shock. This can be life threatening, especially if the individual has become tolerant to a high level.
Substance Abuse in an Addict
As touched on before, an individual does not have to be physically dependent on a substance to be an addict. They may go days without a drink or drug, but when they do succumb to the mental compulsion, they invariably lose all control of the amount they consume. This can lead to devastating consequences, a change in personality whilst intoxicated, or a binge that can last for hours, days or even weeks at a time. In between they will have periods of abstinence or some control. The aftermath of their last drink or drug episode does not even come into their thought process once the psychological compulsion kicks in; or if it does, it is threadbare and they are convinced to their inner core that this time will be different – they will be in control. Due to the physical aspect of addiction, it very rarely is and tends to get progressively worse.
What Defines an Addict?
There are two defining points that separate an addict from someone who overindulges.
- Once they pick up a substance or activity, they invariably lose all control of their consumption/actions and find it extremely difficult if not impossible to stop.
- Once they have managed to stop; whether it be due to a severe consequence or medical intervention such as a medical detox, due to the illness residing in the mind, they are unable to stay stopped. At some point, unless appropriate treatment is received for the psychological aspect of addiction, they will relapse.
An individual who over indulges, given a sufficient reason to stop, such as the threat of losing their job, health warning, or relationship breakdown, will be able to stop or moderate. They may even need medical help for a dependency, but they can stay stopped. An addict will not be able to stop, moderate or stay stopped, regardless of the severity of the consequences to their health, mental wellbeing, finances, career or personal relationships; not without the correct professional help and treatment.
If you or a loved one are suffering from addiction, please do not waste another day. Addiction claims lives on a daily basis and impacts on loved ones and families like no other illness can. Please call or chat to us online today, for immediate help and confidential advice on the next right steps to take and on the best addiction treatments available
Types of Addiction
There are many different substances and maladaptive behaviours that people can become addicted to including: