Breaking the Bondage of Addiction

Addictions today have become more common than we dare to accept. Many types of addictions have become socially acceptable, in these morally and spiritually bankrupt times. Good things when misused can turn into addictions.

What is Addiction?

It is dependency on a particular substance or behaviour which is impossible to break without timely intervention. It destroys the person, demoralizes the family and all those associated with him.

Society has a general tendency to consider different kinds of substance abuse as addiction, while ignoring certain behaviour patterns that are equally addictive. Food, shopping, gambling, work, or sex can turn to behaviour addictions and create problems that are just as destructive as substance abuse.

• Workaholics would be shocked if told that work has become their addiction. They believe that frenetic activity is good for mental health and wellbeing. People want to carve out positions of power and honour through their professional accomplishments. What starts as a worthy ambition soon grows into an addiction. Without work they feel enervated and depressed.

• Food becomes an emotional pacifier to satisfy longings, loneliness or low self esteem. People eat when under stress. The act of digesting the food switches off that part of the brain mechanism that makes them tense. The rise of serotonin when food is taken makes them feel good. Those who live alone and are sad or depressed are vulnerable. One woman who was eating all the time said, “I miss my husband, and my stomach does not know the difference between hunger and love.” Frenzy feeding is an addiction. It is a vicious cycle. When a depressed person snacks, his blood sugar rises and he feels good. But insulin shoots up in the blood and after a while, blood sugar falls. So he feels depressed again and reaches for a hot chocolate or a cookie.

• Gambling: Lotteries, playing cards, number games, casino games, betting at the races or even cricket matches and other sporting events can become addictive. Even losing money doesn’t deter them. They believe that luck is just around the corner. The adrenaline rush overshadows the guilt of money lost and debts piling up.

• Shopaholics are compulsive buyers. Whenever they are angry or frustrated, they find release in purchasing a pair of shoes or an expensive dress, irrespective of the money and time wasted. It makes them snap out off their moods.

• Relationships: Some people develop an over dependence on a particular person to make them feel complete or fulfilled. This may lead to stalking, threatening or harming the very person they claim to love.

• Sexual addiction is when the need for sex becomes a compulsive obsession whether marital, extramarital or same sex. 44% of sex addicts are embarrassed by what they do, but can’t help themselves nor will they seek treatment. Fetishes, pornography, rape, frottage (pawing women) flashing, are some of the ways by which they get their orgasm. This addiction is to the neurochemical changes that occur during sex. Sex addiction in women is becoming a major problem.

• Mood altering chemicals like cocaine, heroin, LSD, amphetamines, ketamine, and prescription drugs like cough syrups, sedatives, tranquillizers are habit forming. Even caffeine (one cup of coffee contains 150mgs of caffeine) is addictive. Drugs provide a feeling of well being and a false sense of power and control.

• Alcohol is a threat to modern civilization. With free availability, younger age groups are becoming hooked on alcohol. Alcoholism is said to decrease the life span of a person by twelve years. It is a depressant that affects the central nervous system immediately. No doubt it temporarily reduces tension and brings about relaxation. But in the long run, it destroys a person mentally and physically.

• Smoking is a habit very difficult to kick. It has damaging effects on liver, heart and is implicated in the cause of cancer.

All addictions, whether behavioural or chemical, are destructive. They gradually rob one of will power or self control. With drugs and alcohol, the body becomes tolerant to small amounts. So, larger quantities are needed. Mixing of drugs enhances potency, but also increases dangers. Health deteriorates. There is loss of control and inability to manage one’s affairs. Even routine jobs are difficult to perform. Behaviour becomes erratic.

Causes of Addiction:

1. Friends or family members may introduce the young impressionable teen to a glass of beer or a cigarette. This may be the beginning of a love for these substances. Recently, the case of a brandy guzzling child of five was reported. His parents started giving him brandy every day to ward off asthmatic attacks.

2. Keeping wrong company. Peer pressure can be very persuasive.

3. Disorganized home environment where parents are poor role models. There is no love, warmth or appreciation of a sensitive child. Parents may quarrel frequently or there may be domestic violence.

4. Poor and unsafe neighborhoods where drunkenness, violence and abusive behaviour is a way of life.

5. Lack of direction with no moral standards to live by. Young people can be easily influenced into wrong ways.

6. Glorification of alcohol, drugs and vices through films, TV, advertisements.

7. Easy availability of alcohol and drugs.

How to break the bondage of Addiction:

• By first admitting that one has a problem with either substances or behaviour; that life is fully out of control; that there is loss of dignity.

• By seeking help from trained counselors or psychiatrists. They will help to get to the root of the problem – Injustice? Fear? Worthlessness? Anger? Life is not a bed of roses.

Everybody has problems, but one must learn to deal with them without the aid of substances. It is important to be conscious of one’s vulnerabilities.

• Approach for alcohol and substance abuse is multidisciplinary. It needs admission to a facility dealing exclusively with these problems. Medical measures will involve detoxification and treatment of withdrawal symptoms.

Psychological management will be through:

1. Counseling individually, by which he is psychologically conditioned to stay away from drugs or alcohol. Each member of his family must also cooperate with the addict’s treatment, through love, understanding and compassion.

2. Group therapy will help the addict realize that he is not alone and that there are others in a similar situation. Here there is mutual understanding, acceptance, sharing of individual problems and sympathy.

3. Sociotherapy involves teaching the addict effective methods of adjustment to normal life. He should not be left in a high risk environment. Community reinforcements like recreation clubs, Alcoholics Anonymous, and job availability will be helpful.

Rehabilitation can be a long and hard battle depending on whether the addiction is to a substance or behaviour. It depends on the addict’s desire and determination to be cured, and the support he receives from his loved ones. Relapses may occur. But there must be the will to start all over again. Sometimes it may be a life long struggle especially with drug addicts and alcoholics. Therefore finding support groups is important.

Along with therapy, dependence on God is essential. A daily walk with God will strengthen a person enough to surmount the injustices of life, and dispel lurking fears.

The seeds of addiction are within all human beings. We need to periodically examine ourselves and see if there are things we find difficult to let go, and which have the potential to turn into addictions.

Addiction, The Silent Killer

The word “addiction” is derived from a Latin term for “enslaved by” or “bound to.” Anyone who has struggled to overcome an addiction or has tried to help someone else to do so understands why.

Addiction exerts a long and powerful influence on the brain that manifests in three distinct ways: craving for the object of addiction, loss of control over its use, and continuing involvement with it despite adverse consequences.

Addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (e.g., alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (e.g., gambling, sex, shopping) that can be pleasurable, but the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health. Users may not be aware that their behavior is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others.

The word addiction is used in several different ways. One definition describes physical addiction. This is a biological state in which the body adapts to the presence of a drug so that drug no longer has the same effect, otherwise known as a tolerance. Another form of physical addiction is the phenomenon of overreaction by the brain to drugs (or to cues associated with the drugs). An alcoholic walking into a bar, for instance, will feel an extra pull to have a drink because of these cues.

People with an addiction do not have control over what they are doing, taking or using. Their addiction may reach a point at which it is harmful.

Addictions do not only include physical things we consume, such as drugs or alcohol, but may include virtually anything, such abstract things as gambling to seemingly harmless products, such as chocolate – in other words, addiction may refer to a substance dependence (e.g. drug addiction) or behavioral addiction (e.g. gambling addiction).

However, most addictive behavior is not related to either physical tolerance or exposure to cues. People compulsively use drugs, gamble, or shop nearly always in reaction to being emotionally stressed, whether or not they have a physical addiction. Since these psychologically based addictions are not based on drug or brain effects, they can account for why people frequently switch addictive actions from one drug to a completely different kind of drug, or even to a non-drug behavior.

Addiction, often referred to as dependency often leads to tolerance – the addicted person needs larger and more regular amounts of whatever they are addicted to in order to receive the same effect. Often, the initial reward is no longer felt, and the addiction continues because withdrawal is so unpleasant.

When referring to any kind of addiction, it is important to recognize that its cause is not simply a search for pleasure and that addiction has nothing to do with one’s morality or strength of character.

Experts debate whether addiction is a “disease” or a true mental illness, whether drug dependence and addiction mean the same thing, and many other aspects of addiction. Such debates are not likely to be resolved soon.

Gambling Addiction Basics

The coming age has brought with it numerous new pathological addictions, one of them being addiction to gambling. Pathological gambling was conferred with the status of a disease by the American Psychiatric Association back in 1980s. Robert L. Custer, M.D., is a pioneer in this field of problem gambling.

People who fall prey to this addiction are usually those who secure an income by means of blackjack, poker or other gambling activities. They are professional players who visit casinos not for fun sake, but to employ their skills and earn.

Based on their way of playing and the driving force behind it, gamblers can be categorized. For example, while professional gamblers are skillful and good in their game a casual gamblers plays merely for recreation.

The symptoms of gambling addiction are usually hard to identify. Since this disease is different from other substance related addictions like drug or alcohol abuse, the indications of this sickness are subtle. The nearest possible way in which the symptoms of this addiction can be stated is through the “Custer three Phase Model”. According tot his model, the gambling addiction can be characterized by three phases: the wining phase, the losing phase and the desperation phase.

In the wining stage, the compulsive gambler is ecstatic and overexcited with this earnings and is unwilling to quit gambling. Therefore, the addict usually increases his intensity of gambling . However, losing being the other half of gambling, his wining streak is short-lived. Nonetheless, recurrent losses do not deter him as he wants to win again and get his money back. Addicted gamblers suffer from financial stress, loss of sleep, and mental fatigue in this phase. They face problems at the family front. The patient also tends to borrow huge amounts or avail some money making schemes. As the gambler continues to face loss on every alternate day, he finds it difficult to stay away from gambling. Compulsive gamblers may resort to any means to raise funds for their obsession. They become desperate, with their debts becoming unmanageable. Loss of jobs, fight with friends and family, committing crimes or suicidal tendencies define this phase.

The question as to why does one gamble, can not be answered in definitive terms. One of the dominant reasons is the mental health of the gambler. For some people gambling serves as a n escape route from their lives. A compulsive gambler plays for kicks. He is just unable to stay away from it. Many researchers also blame the easy accessibility to casinos. The government and its lottery fund is also widely condemned.

Treatment programs and centers exist to treat this disease. Regular therapy and counseling is an effective and a widely used technique to cure this disease. Various support groups have also cropped up, where the addicts share their experiences and strengthen each others desire to quit gambling. Some groups that fund such programs include casinos and state lotteries. Some casinos lay stress on responsible gambling and have taken steps to make the people aware about his addiction.

However the first step, before undertaking nay treatment would be to acknowledge this disease. With very slight symptoms and effects this addiction is difficult to catch and acknowledge. Hence it helps to be aware to act wisely.