What is Addiction?

Although the topic of addiction has become an increasingly pivotal part of television shows, magazine articles and self-help books, many people still don’t completely understand what addiction is.  Many of us still think that addiction is something that happens to Other People and never to ourselves.  That we are too smart to get hooked on anything or that our simple vices surely can’t be an addiction.  But a closer look at what addiction is, how it works and the ways in which it affects our lives may make some people think twice about what they thought they knew about addicts and addiction.


Addiction Isn’t Always About Drugs & Alcohol
The biggest mistake people make when it comes to thinking about addiction is that they believe addiction is about hardcore drugs and alcohol.  People can become addicted to anything from heroin to shopping and the issue isn’t about the object of their addiction – it’s about how their addictive behavior negatively impacts their lives.

For something to be considered an addiction, it must meet three basic pieces of criteria.  It must

–  Give the user a sense of euphoria, happiness or other pleasing effect

–  Require regular or increasing doses or exposures in order to achieve the same results

–  Negatively impact other areas of the person’s life as dependence grows


These three points are the difference between someone who spends a lot of time playing video games, and someone with a video game addiction.  It’s not uncommon to know someone who spends a lot of time playing a favorite game, but that’s a far cry from a person who plays them so much the rest of their life is neglected.  That was the case for a couple in South Korea who became so addicted to playing video games that their own daughter died of starvation as a result of their addiction.

Addiction can Happen to Anyone
We are all hard wired with a pleasure centre in our brains.  When we engage in certain behaviors or when we eat or drink certain things these pleasure centers light up with naturally occurring feel-good chemicals.  This is where addiction begins for many people.  For some people it’s the chemical rush of eating comfort foods, for others the high that comes after shopping and for others the high of alcohol or drugs.  Addiction doesn’t strike only a certain type of person – it can happen to anyone regardless of their economic standing, education or upbringing.  There are addicts who drive BMWs and live in multimillion dollar homes just as there are addicts without a penny to their name.

A Common Sense Approach to Addiction
Since addiction can strike anyone at any time, it’s important to keep an open mind about not only what addiction is, but how to handle it should it touch your life, or the life of someone you love.  Treatment options and support groups exist to help addicts get the help they need while also providing help, advice and support to their families.  As addiction becomes a more common topic on television and in the media we can all begin to take a more honest approach towards addiction as well as a pro-active position on dealing with it.

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