Addiction

On this page you will learn more about addiction.

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The word “addiction” lends itself from the Latin term for “enslaved by” or “bound to.”

Addiction describes an intense craving for something and involves loss of control over its use, as well as continued exposure to it despite detrimental consequences. This “something” is not limited to alcohol and drugs, as more recent studies have indicated that specific pleasurable behaviours, such as sex, gambling and shopping can also cause addictions.

What makes a person an addict?

Addiction is a complex condition that cannot be attributed to one simple causal explanation. The environment, the person’s genetics, past events, and mental health all influence the development of addiction.

The neurological explanation of how addiction interferes with normal brain function is helpful to further understand this issue.

Our brain registers different pleasures in the same way, whether pleasure originates from a psychoactive drug, a sexual encounter, a monetary reward, or a satisfying emotional relationship. In the brain, pleasure releases the neurotransmitter dopamine along with other chemicals. The probability that drug use or engaging in pleasurable behaviours will develop into addiction is directly associated to the rate with which it boosts dopamine release as well as the magnitude and reliability of the release. 

Dopamine contributes to the experience of pleasure, but also plays an important role in learning and memory. Dopamine reinforces the brain´s association between the specific stimuli and the feelings of pleasure, driving the person to seek out whatever prompted those feelings again in the future.

The information regarding the environmental cues linked with the drug use or pleasurable behaviors are stored by the hippocampus and the amygdala, so that it can be accessed again.  These memories and the desire to experience that euphoria again help create a conditioned response (intense craving) whenever the person encounters those environmental cues. These cravings explain the relapses after long periods of sobriety.

Signs that may indicate the presence of addiction.

·       Disinterest in other activities.

·       Loss of control.

·       Spending large amounts of time engaging in the behaviors.

·       Irritability, restlessness, depression, or severe anxiety during attempts to quit.

·       Urges to engage in the behaviors even when they are negatively impacting their daily life, relationships or work.

·       Hiding what they are doing and lying to other people about it.

 

What causes addiction?

A person’s environment, people, places, and things that they are exposed to, can also influence whether or not an addiction develops. 

Certain factors in our environment may play a role in causing addiction including friends, social pressure, parental drug use, lack of social support, exposure to drugs, neighborhood poverty, or poor parental supervision. Children who grow up with good parental support, positive relationships, a sense of community, anti-drug policies at school, and most importantly, are able to develop self-control and coping skills, may be protected from some of the risk factors for addiction.

In addition to the environment, there is a strong link between mental health and addiction. Both are impacted by several factors, including genetics, previous history, and environment. Studies suggest that people who suffer from anxiety disorders, mood disorders, ADHA, antisocial personality disorder or psychotic disorders are twice as likely to also have a substance use disorder.

Hence treatment of mental health disorders may reduce the likelihood of future drug use. 

Different types of addiction

Addictions are separated into two categories: chemical addiction (alcohol, opioids, cannabis, nicotine, cocaine, amphetamines, and methamphetamine), and behavioral addiction.

Besides addiction to substances, people can develop addiction to an endless list of things such as behaviors, such as gambling or playing videogames, risk activities and sports, addiction to relationships, smartphones, chocolate, shopping, plastic surgery or tanning.

Addiction treatment

The first step to treatment is an awareness of the problem, and the recognition that you need help.

Most often, a combination of medication and psychological therapy is needed.

Medication can help with avoiding drug cravings and with symptoms of withdrawal.

Psychotherapy helps to understand the underlaying reasons and motivation of the addiction, to develop coping strategies for anxiety, anger and other emotions associated, to change the unhealthy habits and address other problems.

There are different options for treatment: detox, residential treatment, outpatient treatment, 12-step programs or dual diagnosis programs.

How can Mindler help with addictions?

Mindler is unable to offer medically assisted detoxification, however your GP would be able to guide you to the appropriate service if this is required.

Nevertheless, Mindler can aid with addictions with the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT provides our patients with psychological coping resources, for example: self-awareness, self-instruction, problem-solving, strategies to reduce risk, tools to engage in healthy activities and methods of responding and changing dysfunctional beliefs. CBT focuses on several areas for therapeutic intervention:

1.     Automatic thoughts that increase the risk to consume.

2.     Dysfunctional beliefs about oneself and the relationship with the addiction.

3.     Identify the risky situations, both external (certain places) or internal (e.g.: feeling anxious)

4.     How to face physiological cravings; distraction and delay techniques in response to them by engaging in healthy activities.

5.     Identify and challenge the beliefs that justify the addiction.

6.     Emergency plan for a lapse or relapse to break the vicious cycle.

Last updated on: 2022.02.10

Author: Marina Moran

Reviewed by: Antigone Lanitis