Addiction: Recognizing and Treating It

Addiction is a growing phenomenon in modern society. In truth, it has probably always plagued people. However, modern science has helped physicians and others understand the root causes of this physical and mental disorder. There are many kinds of addictions and many ways to treat each of them.

What Is Addiction?

When most people think of addiction, they imagine drug addiction or alcoholism. These are common kinds of addiction but they are not the only forms of this disease. It can also manifest itself as an addiction to behaviors as well as certain substances.

Understanding that addiction is a disease is an important step in confronting the problem. Previous theories about addiction saw it mainly as a weakness, either inborn or learned as a bad habit. Most researchers now see addiction as something that happens as a result of chemical changes in the brain.

When you suffer from an addiction, you have a desire for a certain substance or behavior that you find satisfying. Without access to the substance or behavior, the subject can suffer symptoms as minor as discomfort to as major as hallucinations. Over time, the addicted individual often finds less and less pleasure in the source of addiction but finds it just as necessary.

The physical health of addicted people often suffers, especially if the addiction is for a substance. For example, many cigarette smokers are addicted to nicotine. Without it, they can become nervous, fatigued and irritable. If they continue to smoke, however, they risk getting lung cancer and suffering other ill health results.

Types of Addiction

There are many types of addiction. The easiest way to break down an analysis of addiction is to lump together the two major forms of addiction. These are behavioral addictions and substance addictions.

• Behavioral Addictions

People can become addicted to behaviors. The most well-known example of a behavioral addiction is the addiction to gambling. This obviously can have the additional effect of damaging a person’s finances. Some people suffer from sexual addictions or addictions to shopping. These addictions do not get as much attention as drug and alcohol addictions. They should not be confused with behaviors resulting from obsessive-compulsive disorders.

• Substance Addictions

While many people tend to link addiction with illegal drugs, it is just as easy and dangerous to become addicted to many legal substances. Alcohol and nicotine are two notable examples of legal substances that can cause devastating addictions.

In addition, there are many prescribed and legal drugs to which medical patients can become addicted. These include pain killers such as Vicodin.

How Does Addiction Affect People?

The effects of addiction are various. These effects do not just differ from one substance or behavior to the next. They also differ from one person to the next. The severity of addiction symptoms manifests differently in many cases. Some addictions can be so strong that people who are deprived of a substance such as cocaine or alcohol will suffer hallucinations.

Addiction Treatment

There are a couple well-known ways to recover from an addiction.

• Rehabilitation – Addicted individuals enter voluntary programs to learn how to avoid giving in to the temptation to use a substance or resort to a certain behavior. Some of these programs wean people from their addictions and others demand that individuals go cold turkey and simply using all at once.
• Detox – Sometimes people cannot manage this under their own will. Friends or authorities may enter the person into a detox program which will withhold the source of addiction until the person has it completely out of his or her system.

As science learns more about addiction, people discover new ways to treat it. Most researchers accept that the most important step for an addict is to realize that he or she has a problem.