Are Any Addictions Healthy?

April 29, 2013

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Addiction and Dependence

Addiction and Dependence On One Thing or Another

Addiction is often referred to as a physical or psychological dependence on drugs or alcohol that results in withdrawal symptoms when abstinence is attempted. Although many individuals associate addiction and dependence with substance abuse, there are many other things people become addicted to, some of which may even seem healthy. But dependence on a substance, item or activity and the way they make us feel can cause casual use to become an addiction, and it can make previously healthy activities become activities that put health and well-being at-risk.

To understand how an individual’s health and well-being can become compromised, it’s important to understand how addiction and dependence develops. With the exception of a few very powerful drugs, such as heroin or crack cocaine, most addictions take time to develop. But once they take hold, the person involved can find their life being changed and impacted in ways they never imagined yet are helpless to stop.

Progression from Experimentation to Addiction

  • Initiation. The first time a person tries a substance or activity is known as the initiation. This initial experience is seldom conducted with the intention of becoming hooked. A curiosity of how they’ll feel during the first experience can lead to trying it.
  • Further Experimentation. If the individual enjoyed how they felt during or after their initial experimentation, they may decided to try the activity or substance again in order to regain the same feeling.
  • Regular Use. Whether casual or occasional, regular use begins to occur, and the person finds he or she enjoys the feelings associated with the substance or activity.
  • Increased Tolerance and Dependency. Eventually, repeated use or participation will not produce the same effects as the individual experienced the first few times. He or she will have to increase the amount or frequency of indulgence to receive those same effects. It’s also likely that trying to go without will lead to unpleasant symptoms and side effects. At this point in the progression, a vicious cycle is set into motion.

List of Possible Addictions

It’s common to associate street drugs and alcohol with addiction and dependence and while they may lead to the most common and severe addictions experienced, substance abuse isn’t the only thing that leads to addictive behavior. The dangers of some addictions are subjective in nature, in that they place only the person under control in danger. Nevertheless, when an individual must use a substance or engage in an activity no matter what the consequences or how many problems are caused, it’s likely that addiction is present. This list is by no means an exhaustive list of possible addictions, but it touches on some of the more common or increasingly common addictions.

  • Drugs (Street, prescription drugs, plant-based and man-made)
  • Alcohol
  • Gambling
  • Sex/Pornography
  • Internet/Video Game
  • Food
  • Exercise
  • Tobacco

Signs of Addiction and Dependence

The signs and symptoms exhibited by an individual suffering from addiction and dependence can vary depending on what that person is addicted to. Some people might experience physical symptoms, such as tremors, nausea or cold sweats. Other individuals may become anxious, depressed or suffer hallucinations. Despite the various symptoms and signs of addiction, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders finds that people suffering from addiction consistently exhibit at least three of seven primary symptoms over the course of a one-year period.

  1. An increased tolerance to the effects of the substance or activity. Either more frequent or greater amounts are needed to produce the same effect.
  2. Withdrawal symptoms occur when abstinence is attempted.
  3. It becomes increasingly difficult to moderate or control use even with the knowledge that unpleasant consequences will result.
  4. Negative consequences, such as health and safety risks, as well as trouble with the law, occur and are on the rise.
  5. A significant amount of emotional and physical energy, as well as time, is spent in either the pursuit of or involvement in the addictive behavior.
  6. Other activities, responsibilities and relationships are neglected to allow for greater focus on the addiction.
  7. There’s a desire to cut down or quit, but an inability to do so.

Steps to Take When Addiction Develops

Recognizing that a problem exists is the first step toward the recovery process. To treat the addiction and help bring healing to the individual its affected, professional treatment is often the key. The medical supervision and care provided, as well as the counseling and support, can be instrumental in helping people suffering from addiction to regain their health and happiness. Likewise, becoming involved in workshops that teach life skills can help build a person’s foundation for a life free of the substance or activity they were addicted to.

When it comes to addiction and dependence as related to drugs or alcohol, professional treatment centers offer a few similar program components. These components are meant to help the user overcome the stronghold of addiction and start regaining their health, while building up the skill set that will enable them to live a life of sobriety. Treatment programs for substance abuse are offered on an in-patient and out-patient basis, and include these common components.

  • Detoxification. The detoxification process allows the person to become drug- or alcohol-free in a closely monitored environment. Safety and maximum comfort are ensured while the individual goes through the withdrawal process.
  • Medical Care. Physical and mental health issues caused by or contributing to addiction will be treated as part of a holistic approach to recovery from addiction.
  • Counseling. Various types of counseling are incorporated into daily life during treatment to provide the recovering user and family members with support. These range from individual counseling to group counseling with peers, and may also include counseling with family members.
  • Workshops/Classes. Once the person in recovery completes the detox phase, he or she will become involved in classes or workshops that teach various life skills. These skills can range from everyday life skills to those focused solely on the addiction, such as managing finances to identifying and dealing with triggers.
  • Aftercare. The continuance of support and the sober lifestyle are vital to ongoing recovery. Before leaving treatment, the recovering user will create a plan for sobriety and receive assistance in taking the appropriate steps.

Regaining Balance, Health and Well-Being

Once an individual has identified that something has caused their life balance to become out of whack, leading them into addictive behavior, it’s important that effective support and treatment are obtained to help the individual regain balance. Addiction and dependence is a major problem, and those who overcome it will have to maintain recovery techniques and treatments for the remainder of their life. Similar to other chronic issues, such as arthritis or diabetes, it’s possible to go on and live a happy, healthy life. But the various aspects that contribute toward abstinence and balance must be maintained and built upon.

Whether an individual is overcoming his or her own addiction, or desires to help a family member or friend, professional support should be part of the equation. The knowledge and expertise a counselor and medical professional can provide to the individual’s benefit can result in treatment and maintenance that’s more effective and safe. Reach out for help and guidance from a medical professional, counselor or mentor, regardless of the nature of the addiction and dependence to find a safe solution for recovery.

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