Addiction: What does it look like?
For all the talk about addiction and its negative effects in the media, people still have a hard time answering one question. At what point does an indulgence turn into a habit? What, exactly, makes an addiction?
Addictions can fall into two categories: substance or behavior. A behavioral addiction can involve just about any behavior—gambling, sex or even surgical procedures. Substance addiction entails physical and mental dependence on a drug. A patient can become addicted to anything from nicotine to alcohol to cocaine. For successful recovery, patients and doctors must address both psychological and physical components of an addiction.
Signs of an Addiction
Where does addiction begin? The question wouldn’t be so difficult to answer were it not for variations from person to person. In other words, why is it some people can consume alcohol, nicotine, or even harder drugs without forming an addiction? Scientists still struggle to answer the question. Recent theories posit that a complex mix of genetics, personal history and brain chemistry can lead to addiction.
To recognize an addiction, one must first know the warning signs. While some of the details remain in dispute, doctors can agree on defining addiction in broad strokes. For an addict, use of a substance becomes a central part of life. Consuming a substance on a regular basis begins to have a negative effect on relationships, job functions and everyday living. Someone with an addiction consumes a substance and cannot stop, and may experience withdrawal symptoms upon cessation. Access to a substance can become an obsession, leading an addict to maintain large or hidden supplies of a drug. Behavior can become violent should a subject lose access to his drug of choice.
Anyone who indulges in a substance that alters body and brain chemistry should learn to spot an addict. Any substance—anything from a minor stimulant like caffeine to a restricted drug like heroin—which causes mental or physical dependency can result in getting addicted. Often the consequences of chemical dependency can lead to severe results. Friendships or a career might suffer, finances can collapse, and in many cases, it can lead to death. Recognizing symptoms, and encouraging treatment can help an addict, as well as friends and family, live a healthier, drug-free life.