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What is Addiction and What is the Solution?

December 12, 2017

A drug or alcohol addiction possesses two basic qualities. 1) A man or woman suffering from addiction often uses more than they planned to use. 2) A man or woman suffering from substance use disorder continues to use despite negative consequences.

People use drugs or alcohol to escape, relax or to reward themselves. But over time, drugs and alcohol make people believe that they can’t cope without them, or that they can’t enjoy life without using.  This causes damage to so much, but one often not discussed is self-esteem.  So what is addiction and what is the solution?

What is the Medical Definition of Addiction?

An addiction or substance use disorder must meet at least 3 of the following criteria. This is based on the criteria of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV) and World Health Organization (ICD-10).(1)

1. Tolerance. Do you use more alcohol or drugs over time?

2. Withdrawal. Have you experienced physical or emotional withdrawal when you have stopped using? Have you experienced anxiety, irritability, shakes, sweats, nausea, or vomiting? Emotional withdrawal is just as significant as physical withdrawal.

3. Limited control. Do you sometimes drink or use drugs more than you would like? Do you sometimes drink to get drunk? Does one drink lead to more drinks sometimes? Do you ever regret how much you used the day before?

4. Negative consequences. Have you continued to use even though there have been negative consequences to your mood, self-esteem, health, job, or family?

5. Neglected or postponed activities. Have you ever put off or reduced social, recreational, work, or household activities because of your use?

6. Significant time or energy spent. Have you spent a significant amount of time obtaining, using, concealing, planning, or recovering from your use? Have you spend a lot of time thinking about using? Have you ever concealed or minimized your use? Have you ever thought of schemes to avoid getting caught?

7. Desire to cut down. Have you sometimes thought about cutting down or controlling your use? Have you ever made unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control your use?

How Does Addiction Feel?

An addictive substance feels good because it stimulates the pleasure center of the brain through neurotransmitters such as dopamine and GABA. If an individual possesses a genetic predisposition, addictive substances don’t just feel good. They feel so good that the individual will want to chase after them.

This is where addiction or substance use disorder comes in. If one has a genetic predisposition, addictive substances feel so good that they are willing to suffer negative consequences in order to get more and to continue to feel the high.

Addictive substances feel different inside an addict’s brain than they do in a non-addict’s brain. This is why the two sides have difficulty understanding each other. In someone who is not addicted, drugs and alcohol only produce a mild high. Therefore a non-addict cannot understand why the addict would go to such lengths, when it is clearly destroying their life.

Denial is a big part of addiction and substance use disorder. Because addictive substances feel good, an addict will initially deny that they have a problem. In the long-run addiction isolates individuals from the people and activities and that mean the most to them.

The Consequences of Addiction

People only stop using drugs and alcohol when they have suffered enough negative consequences. When an individual has suffered enough pain and enough regret they may be ready to stop.

A person is ready to stop when the two sides of addiction collide. On the one hand, addiction feels so good that they want to use more. On the other hand, addiction leads to negative consequences. After a while, something has got to give.

Someone suffering from substance use disorder doesn’t have to hit rock bottom. The purpose of articles like this is to show people the potential negative consequences of addiction so that they will be ready to quit before they have lost everything.  Try imagining what it would be like to hit rock bottom.  And that may become additional motivation to stop using and get addiction help and treatment.

The most important consequences of addiction are social, emotional, and psychological. People usually think of the physical and economic consequences of addiction. “I don’t have a serious addiction because my health is fine, and I haven’t lost my job.” But those are very late stage consequences.

As far as work is concerned that’s usually the last thing to suffer.  Work is necessary in order to pay bills and money is necessary for drugs for those still living in active addiction. When work begins to suffer, one has slipped from being a functioning addict to a non-functioning addict.

The damage addiction does to one’s relationships and self-esteem is far deeper and takes longer to repair.  It hurt friends and family. The person has disappointed themselves. They’ve traded important things in life so that they could make more time to use. They’ve lived a double life. They’ve seen the hurt in their family’s eyes, and the disappointment in their children’s faces. Those are the consequences that may become motivating factors to begin addiction treatment and recovery.

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Written and Published by – Kill The Heroin Epidemic Nationwide, Heroin News and the National Alliance of Addiction Treatment Centers (NAATC)

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