Addiction: What Is It?

Addiction: What Is It?

Addiction is a disease and not simply a weakness. And it can quickly take over a person’s life.

What is addiction?

Addiction is an urge that is often too strong to control. It is a compulsive need to do or have something despite the consequences. As a process, it’s an attempt to control and fulfill a desire for happiness or a pathological love and trust relationship with an object or event. It can affect anyone from any background, rich or poor, young or old. People can become addicted to many things such as gambling, sex, shopping, alcohol, and drugs. Addiction can be progressive and chronic. It can also be fatal with alcohol and drugs. But addiction also is treatable. This Q&A will focus on drug addiction.

What are the symptoms of addiction?

Once you use a drug for any length of time you build up a tolerance to it. Often this leads you to use more than is intended. You also may experience withdrawal if you stop using the drug or don’t feel its effects. You may also be addicted if your effort to stop using a drug or desire to cut down use are unsuccessful. Other signs of addiction include continued drug use despite health concerns, social or interpersonal problems, no longer fulfilling your roles at school, work, or home, giving up activities, and spending a great deal of time obtaining drugs, using drugs, or recovering from their use. Cravings or a strong desire to use drugs is a key symptom.

Are there different levels of addiction?

Levels of addictions can run from mild to severe. Generally, six or more symptoms indicate a severe level of addiction.

Who becomes addicted?

Anyone can become addicted to drugs. Most people don’t plan on becoming addicted. Addiction does not segregate based on race, economic status, class, age, employment, or sex. Addiction can affect our community members, co-workers, friends, and family members.

What are the causes of addiction?

Some people have a genetic predisposition to addiction. Environmental factors such as family life, social and economic factors, and surroundings can make you vulnerable to addiction. The age a person first uses drugs can influence addiction. Having friends who use drugs is the single biggest factor that leads to abuse and addiction.

Why is it so hard to quit drugs?

Drug use changes how your brain works. The reward center of the brain is flooded with dopamine and memories of healthy/natural rewards are replaced by memories of drug use. Your judgment, rational thought, and control are altered. These changes can last a long time. Drug addiction can become more important than the need to eat or sleep. Addiction affects the mind, body, and soul of a person. Emotionally it’s painful and can make you feel hopeless, worthless, and helpless.

How can I get help for myself or someone else?

Healing from addiction takes time. When you stop using a drug it upsets your body and brain. But you don’t have to do it alone. There are numerous resources available to help you tackle this problem, including inpatient and outpatient treatment, detox clinics, 12-step meetings, support groups and group therapy, sober houses, transitional houses, medication-assisted treatment, and recovery networks. To locate the various treatment agencies and providers, visit NHtreatment.org or call 844-711-HELP (4357).

You can also seek out help at Weeks. Your primary care provider can refer you to a behavioral health counselor who can offer advice and treatment. They can also teach you how to cope and live without drugs.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 603-788-5095.

žby Shawna Delworth, LCMHC, MLADC, is a behavioral health provider at Weeks Medical Center.