How is it different than the “abuse” of something?
Can one be addicted to something other than drugs and alcohol; for instance, food or sex; gambling or shopping?
What is an addiction?
An addiction is considered to exist when most or all of the following conditions are met:
a) You seem to have a regular need, a pattern, a compulsion to use the substance or engage in the activity or behaviour;
b) You have tried to control your use of the chemical or activity; you have tried to “cut down” or quit – most often, unsuccessfully;
c) You are having some significant consequences to your use: in your relationships, your work and/or your family. Perhaps you are late for work a lot, or you and your partner fight a lot about your use. Perhaps you have incurred legal charges, like an Impaired Driving charge or a drug offense. Perhaps your health is suffering. Perhaps, if you were honest and listened, you would let yourself hear what significant others are trying to say to you;
d) Despite an awareness of the consequences, you continue to use, drink or engage in the activity. For instance, you might have been busted, but you still use. You know things are not right in your life, but you insist on denying what it is costing you;
e) Over time, you have needed to increase the amount of alcohol or drug you use, to achieve the same “buzz.” This is called building tolerance;
f) You experience withdrawal symptoms after you use, when you try to cut down and when you try to quit. These symptoms are very different, depending on the drug or activity used. You may even take some of the drug, another drug or have an “eye-opener” (a morning drink) to ward off the withdrawal symptoms.
How is addiction different than the “abuse” of something?
“Substance Abuse” may only differ from “Addiction” in that e) and f) are less present, but it is still a very bright red flag, not to be ignored.
Can you become addicted to things other than drugs and alcohol?
It would seem that we can become addicted to a great many things. Alcohol and all drugs of abuse – including prescription medications like opiates (Oxycontin, Percocet, Dilaudid, Morphine, Fentanyl, Codeine, Methadone or Demerol) and Benzodiazepines (sleeping pills, anxiety medications, sedatives) act on the brain and very much alter the neurobiology there.
Additionally, compulsive behaviours like gambling, eating, sex, pornography, shopping, shoplifting, working etc. have been shown to trigger a chemical cascade in our brains in very much the same way as do drugs. In the end, all addictions have two things in common: they all create some degree of self-soothing and they all involve some degree, unfortunately, of self-abuse.
What can be done? How can Partners Counselling & Education Services help you and your family in this area?
Partners Addiction Services has a number of trained Addiction Counsellors who specialize in working with people struggling with an addiction. All of these Counsellors are addicts or alcoholics in long-term recovery themselves, or have had direct family experience with addiction.
* Member: Canadian Addiction Counsellors Certification Federation
* Member: Drug & Alcohol Testing Association of Canada
* Jon White is a Certified Specimen Collector, DATAC
Partners Addictions and Family Services.
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