acquiesce - May 20th, 2020

Understanding Addiction

You may be curious as to what causes addiction and why it renders you with an inability to control the problem. This is a  question that is  often asked by people battling an addiction or by  family members of those who are  struggling with one. 

Addiction is an incredibly complex disease that deserves long-term extensive treatment.  It affects individuals physically, psychologically, behaviourally and emotionally by exerting a long and powerful influence over the sufferer.  Addiction manifests itself  in three very distinctive ways:  Firstly, it involves craving for something intensely, secondly, there develops a loss of control and finally there is the continuing involvement with it despite negative consequences.

WHAT CAUSES ADDICTION ?

Addiction is not always an instant problem.  Often, it can start  as recreational use or perhaps by trying a new drug, ‘experimental use’, or even by being prescribed prescriptive drugs following surgery or illness.  The problem is that, for the ones who become addicted, the use of addictive substances becomes a necessity and frequent.  Over time the addict will need more and more of their chosen substance.

As with all other mental and physical problems, there is no one single root cause of addiction. There are, however, various multiple factors that can influence the development of an  addiction and these vary from person to person.  Here, at Acquiesce,  we understand the importance of getting to the bottom of your addiction and treat those underlying causes with compassion and care. In order to help you grasp this multifaceted illness, it is imperative to understand the spectrum of risk factors that are associated with it, enabling you or loved ones  to seek help at the right time.

 

COMMON CAUSES OF ADDICTION:

Genetics

Research indicates there is genetic exposure to addiction, in particular alcohol and therefore alcoholism is likely to run in a family.  This does not indicate that you are going to automatically  become addicted to alcohol, but the risk is higher and points to the fact that genetics may play a role in the cause of addiction. 

Social and Environment Factors

Social and environmental factors also have a role in the development of an addiction. These are the things that an addict is constantly surrounded by. Typically, they involve, the family, school, work, and peers.  If a person lives in a community where substance use is prevalent, they may be more likely to fall into it themselves.

Psychological Causes of Addiction

For some people experiencing a traumatic event can often contribute to the development of their addiction. Individuals find themselves ‘self-medicating’ by using drugs or alcohol to decrease the stress and pain caused by the trauma.  A traumatic event may include:

  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical or verbal abuse
  • Death of a family member, loved one or friend
  • Loss of a relationship, such as divorce
  • Parental abandonment
  • Volatile childhood environment
  • Physical pain or injury (e.g. car accident)
  • Military Service (War)

 

Mental Illness

When you are suffering with both a mental illness and addiction it is referred to as a co-occurring illness. People often abuse drugs and alcohol to ease the symptoms of an undiagnosed mental disorder, often this leads them to addiction.  Abusing substances has many side effects and frequently worsens the symptoms of a mental illness instead of relieving them.  If you think you are suffering with a mental illness and abusing drugs or alcohol, then the best thing for you to do is to immediately get the right treatment for your addiction.  Some mental illnesses include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bi-polar Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

 

Self-esteem Issues

Many people struggling with self-esteem issues will turn to substance abuse in order to overcome negative thoughts or feelings.  If you have become dependent on drugs and alcohol due to low self-esteem it is important to know that our therapy addresses this problem as well as your addiction.

Stages of Addiction

In general, there are five stages of addiction:

Stage 1 : First Use or Experimentation

This is the defined as the voluntary use of drugs, alcohol, or a negative behaviour such as gambling. It also includes prescribed medication by a doctor for a particular issue.  Although experimentation might not necessarily lead to addiction it is, in fact, considered the first stage of addiction.

Stage  2: Regular Use/Abuse

Some people who enter the stage of regular use do not develop an addiction and are able to stop.  The problem with regular use is that it increases the risk of substance use as well as increasing the likelihood of participating in high-risk behaviours like driving under the influence of alcohol.

Stage 3: Tolerance

Tolerance develops after a period of continued use and when a person’s brain and body no longer respond to the original dose and therefore requires a higher dose of either drugs or alcohol in order to get the effect they originally experienced.  The development duration time  differs from person to person and is  also dependent on the substance.  Tolerance can be one of the first warning signs of addiction.

Stage 4: Dependence

Physical Dependence – By this stage, the substance abuser will become physically ill without the continued use of drugs or alcohol and will also experience withdrawal symptoms from either drugs or alcohol.

Psychological Dependence – Experiencing a high rate of  drug cravings, using more frequently and using again and again  after attempting to quit.

Stage 5: Addiction

Addiction is the final stage; individuals find it impossible to stop their substance use regardless of the fact that they no longer get any benefits from using but instead continue to experience negative consequences. As a result, many addicts hit  a ‘rock bottom’ – near death experience, marriage break-up or loss of job before seeking addiction treatment.

 

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU ARE ADDICTED?

Although addiction does not stereotype and can affect different types of people and personalities, the signs of addiction are similar and can include:

Psychological and Physical Signs of Addiction

  • Mood Swings
  • Altered sleeping or insomnia
  • Lack of personal  hygiene and an unkempt appearance
  • Increased temper, defensiveness, irritability, agitation
  • Poor judgement, lack of concentration and memory problems
  • Lack of self-worth and low confidence and self-esteem
  • Craving for a substance or behaviour

Behavioural Signs of Addiction

  • Limited control – using more drugs or alcohol than you would like
  • Continue to use despite negative consequences
  • Withdrawal and isolation from family, people and day-to-day activities
  • Desire to cut down followed by constant unsuccessful attempts
  • You lie about your use and often conceal it
  • Disregard for other areas of your life including relationships, work and health
  • Neglecting or postponing activities  due to your substance abuse
  • An unhealthy focus on pursuing the substance or behaviour of choice.

 

If  you are personally struggling with an addiction problem,  or you are concerned for a loved one  then we are here to help.  Recognising the stages and signs of an addiction is important as it is often the most difficult hurdle to overcome. You can get in touch for a free consultation.

 

WHEN TO GET HELP

No matter what the underlying causes of your addiction are,  it is important to understand that someone who is struggling with an addiction is going to need professional help.  At Acquiesce our approach comes from a place of understanding and an appreciation that addiction is multi-dimensional.  The intensive treatment programme we offer opens up the opportunity to address the root cause of addiction on a unique and tailored basis by addressing the individual’s physical, psychological, behavioural and emotional struggles.

Whatever the circumstances surrounding your addiction it is never too late to access treatment – whilst addiction is a chronic disease, there is hope and you too deserve to have a happy and healthy life.

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