For a long, addiction meant an uncontrollable habit of using alcohol or other drugs. More recently, the understanding of addiction has expanded to include behaviors such as gambling, activities like using a cell phone, having sex, watching pornography or working, and even necessary activities like exercising and eating.

Understanding Addiction: 

Addiction is understood as a complex, chronic brain condition influenced by genes and the environment or compulsive actions of the subject that continue despite harmful consequences. 

It is simply any form of extreme dependency on any substance or activity. A person with an addiction uses a substance or engages in a particular behavior for which the reward may provide a compelling incentive to repeat the activity.

Drug and Alcohol Addiction:

Substance addiction is considered a brain disorder because it involves functional changes to brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control. Those changes may last long after a person stops taking drugs or consuming alcohol.

  • Drug addiction is the usage of illegal drugs, over-the-counter drugs, or prescribed medicines for purposes other than those for which they are meant to be used or in excessive amounts. It’s not just illegal drugs that can lead to abuse and addiction. Prescription medications such as sleeping pills, painkillers, and tranquilizers can cause similar addiction problems.                                                                                                
  • Alcohol addiction or alcoholism is the inability to control drinking due to physical and emotional dependence on alcohol. In addition, heavy drinking can cause changes in the brain and neurochemistry of an individual. As a result, a person with an alcohol addiction may be unable to control their actions. The severity of this disease, how often someone drinks, and the alcohol they consume varies from person to person.

Regardless of how the addiction looks, the subject is said to have substance addiction if they heavily rely on drinking/drugs and can’t stay sober for an extended period.

The distinction between addiction and dependence:

A person dependent on a substance usually experiences drug tolerance and drug withdrawal:

  • Drug tolerance means that the subject’s body has adapted to the drug’s presence and effects, so it consumes more of the drug to produce the same upshots. 
  • Drug withdrawal occurs when people experience specific physical and psychological symptoms/changes if the use of the substance is instantaneously reduced or suddenly halted.

The subject can become dependent on the activity without being necessarily addicted to it, although the two often occur together.

Types of Addiction:

The most common types of addictions are:

  • Substance/Chemical addiction: This term refers to addiction that involves the use of substances like drugs, tobacco, and alcohol. Substances can bring about some pain relief or improved sociability, but this happens at the cost of one’s health. Substance abuse can have dire results on a person’s mental and physical health.                                    
  • Behavioral addiction: This term refers to addiction that involves compulsive behaviors. These are persistent, repeated behaviors that one carries out even if they don’t offer any real benefit. Examples of such addiction are addiction to gambling, shopping, sex, video games, plastic surgery, food, etc.

Signs of Addiction:

  • Loss of control: Loss of control due to addiction in its broader sense encompasses the relative inability of an addict to terminate consumption of the substance once initiated or doing a specific activity and the inability to refrain from such substance use after a period of abstinence.
  • Relationship Problems: Addiction may cause misunderstandings, the distance between the two individuals, disputes over home chores and responsibilities, and arguments that get out of hand in a relationship. 
  • Changes in Behavior: Stimulants can cause users to switch moods in a matter of seconds. Behavioral changes can include an increased desire to engage in risky behavior. An addict may be willing to do anything necessary to get their next hit.
  • Physical Symptoms: Fatigue, weakness, hallucinations, anxiety, depression, appetite issues, sudden rise and fall in body temperature, dehydration, and sleep problems can all occur due to continuous addiction.
  • Physical Appearance: Addiction can cause one to stop growing, acne breakouts, dull skin, baldness, and decrease in appetite resulting in thinning of the body, etc.

Diagnosis of addiction:

The initial step in diagnosis relies on a friend, family member, or the person with addiction themselves acknowledging a need for treatment for the disease. This part can often be the most challenging step of diagnosis. In addition, it may sometimes involve a group intervention if the person with substance use disorder is unaware of its seriousness.

  • The person with suspected substance use disorder/ addiction to a specific activity then visits a doctor or primary care physician, who may refer them to an addiction or rehabilitation specialist.
  • The doctor will inquire about the name/names of the substance used, frequency of use, impairment of daily living, whether the use of a substance is increasing/ doing an activity, and how the pattern of use is impacting significant social, occupational, educational, or other functional areas.
  • The doctor will also ask about the withdrawal symptoms that may have occurred when the subject attempted to decrease or halt use.
  • The doctor will complete a physical examination, including tests, and run blood work to assess the overall health. This step ultimately helps to determine if medical treatment is needed. 
  • The doctor further categorizes the type of disorder the subject suffers and finally recognizes the problem and its extent to be dealt with in the further stages of the needed treatment. 

Increase in the number of addiction cases and results:

United Nations reports suggest that the COVID pandemic has fueled a significant increase in substance use worldwide. People have sought to use drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms in these challenging times. 

There has been an increase in suicide cases due to depression among youth who were continually involved in substance abuse. Overdoses have also spiked since the onset of the pandemic. In addition, physical activity and social interactions haven’t been as safe to engage in, leading some people to use substances like drugs and alcohol or use them more often or in more significant amounts.

No matter what your situation is, help is always available. Contact a treatment provider now that can help you comprehend your treatment options.

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