Nowadays there are many substances one can get addicted to. Sugar, cigarettes, coffee, but also pathological types of addiction such as drugs. Once your body gets used to this substance, it is difficult to quit. Furthermore, your body will often require more to maintain the same effect. This way, the addiction starts controlling your life more and more, until you finally put everything else aside in order to maintain your addiction.
An addiction is defined in the DSM as a constant compulsive need to use a certain substance. This need is impossible to suppress, despite the fact that you know that certain negative consequences are connected to it. An addiction is different from dependency because of the possibility of self-regulation. When you are dependent on a certain substance, there is some level of self-regulation present. In addiction, all self-regulation is gone.
Addiction furthermore has a negative connotation. In many cases it is considered something static, something we cannot change, something we simply suffer from. An addiction, however, is completely different: it often finds its cause in the following-up of several choices we have made, meaning an addiction is open to change. You can regain control.
An alcohol addiction can express itself in many different ways: social drinking, drinking every day,… As we have already described, there is a requirement of loss of control in order to consider something an alcohol addiction. It seems as though you can no longer control your habit and that you have no say in whether or not you will drink.
An alcohol addiction is often linked to wanting to relax certain emotions, such as sadness. After a while, however, it can have an opposite effect; the addiction will not help you forget your sadness, but can make it so that you feel even sadder. Then, it can be so that you start drinking more in order to get rid of these feelings, which in itself can create a vicious cycle.
There are different ways in which an alcohol addiction can be expressed. The mildest form is excessive consumption. This means that there is no addiction, but that you consume more than is considered good for you. This type of alcohol addiction is often linked to emotions such as loss or stress.
Then there is the problematic use of alcohol. This means that a type of dependency is formed and that your alcohol consumption can have different types of harmful consequences, including:
Since this type of consumption is more problematic than the past form, we often mention this as a type of ‘coping style’, which is meant to help deal with certain difficult emotions. As explained earlier, however, this can lead to increased alcohol consumption, meaning a vicious cycle of consumption as the solution to a problem can take root.
The final form of alcohol addiction is binge drinking. This means that large amounts of alcohol are consumed at a certain event. We consider something to be binge drinking if men exceed 6 and women exceed 5 glasses of alcohol in a 2-hour period of time. This type of alcoholism is most common during weekends and can possibly evolve into a more frequent type of alcohol addiction.
If an alcohol addiction sustains for a certain amount of time, this can be linked to severe consequences in different areas of life. We list the most common consequences of an alcohol addiction below.
Smoking is one of the most common addictions. This type of addiction has an influence both on the mind and the body, meaning that this type of addiction also is considered a dependency. This means that we will need to smoke more and more in order to maintain the same feeling we had at the start. Furthermore, dependency means that you feel like you are no longer in control of your consumption.
According to recent figures, a whopping 1 billion people worldwide are addicted to smoking. This firstly has to do with the nicotine which is found in cigarettes. This substance namely has an addictive effect, which means that we want to consume more and more of it. Furthermore, certain chemicals are released when you smoke. These make it so that you feel happy, but also that you are more nervous. Finally, smoking is often related to stress, but even as a reward for certain behavior. The breaks which are taken for smoking can namely have a rewarding effect for certain things which we have realized beforehand.
Just like an alcohol addiction, smoking has several consequences. Below, we sum up the most common consequences of smoking:
While addiction to medication does not get as much attention, it is a type of addiction which seems to occur commonly. An addiction to medication is an addiction to a certain type of medication, such as a pain killer, for example. This is something one can become dependent upon. This dependency translates to the psychological and physical fields, meaning that you feel like you need the medication, leading to frequent intake. Oftentimes, addiction to medication develops when one cannot stop taking a certain substance out of fear of failure without the medication.
Since there are different types of pills, there are different types of addiction to medication. A first type is an addiction to tranquilizers. This category includes sleeping medication and other substances which calm the mind and body. Since an addiction implies dependency, this means that you need sleeping medication or other types of calming pills in order to function normally in life. This type of addiction only occurs after a long period of regular intake. Several sources mention an intake of a substance during at least one year.
A second type of addiction is addiction to painkillers. This differs from the previous type of addiction to medication because your body cannot become addicted to taking painkillers. The psychological effect, however, can still apply. Furthermore, there are specific types of painkillers which contain codeine; this type can have a physically addictive effect.
Some medication can lead to addiction in different ways. Firstly, there is physical addiction. This means that the medication contains certain substances, which your body grows used to after a while, and will eventually require more and more of in order not to show withdrawal symptoms, to continue functioning normally. In the beginning, you will thus quickly notice a difference after taking the medication. After a while, however, your body will require larger amounts in order to maintain the same effect. Furthermore, the half life of some substances can be very long, for example valium and other benzodiazepines can take up to 8 days before the amount in the blood is reduced by half. It thus is useful to remain careful and to be aware of the possible consequences of an addiction to medication, even if you have already stopped taking a certain substance.
Furthermore, medication is often taken with the goal of putting mind and body into a kind of intoxicated state. This can be to forget certain major events, or to temporarily be rid of certain feelings. However, it is also possible that the medication is taken to take the edge off a certain physical ache, in order to avoid exhaustion of mind and body. In the short term taking medication seems like a good solution to some, because they reach their goal: for example, forgetting or avoiding certain things. That is why this type of addiction, too, can have a kind of rewarding effect. However, in the long run people can experience several harmful effects, which lets one wonder if medication really is such an effective and healthy ‘coping style’.
This type of addiction has consequences in different areas. First of all, there are physical consequences. An addiction to medication is linked to dependency, which means that your body will require increasing amounts in order to function properly, among other things. If you then decide to respond to this demand, this can have certain consequences. These include:
There also are several mental consequences of an addiction to medication. Resulting from this dependency, the need is great to respond to the demand of consumption. This can cause large changes in your life sometimes, since your addiction is making your decisions.
Relationships, too, suffer from an addiction to medication. Just like with other types of addiction, people have a tendency to isolate themselves in order not to have to admit to be addicted. Furthermore, addiction can pressure your relationships, with dire consequences in some cases, because it has such a large influence on your decisions and actions.
Depression seems to occur more and more commonly. In many cases, antidepressants are prescribed, in combination or without combination with psychotherapy, in order to quickly get rid of the depression. Recent research, however, showed that 30 per cent struggles with quitting antidepressants; in many cases, the antidepressant Seroxat is mentioned.
An antidepressant addiction differs from other types of addiction in the sense that there is no physical addiction to the substance, making your doses increase. Withdrawal symptoms, on the other hand, are present once you stop taking antidepressants. This begs the question: What makes it so that you can become addicted to antidepressants? What is the addictive component in antidepressants?
Antidepressants are serotonin- and dopamine- heighteners with multi-functional purposes. There namely is the treatment of depression, anxiety issues, panic attacks,… There are different factors which influence the working of antidepressants, such as the type of depression. It can also take between 2 to 6 weeks before the antidepressants actually start working, which indicates that the working is also influenced by personal factors. Altogether, this means that about 50% are actually helped by taking antidepressants.
Despite there being no physical addiction, people can experience withdrawal symptoms upon quitting their antidepressants. These symptoms can differ greatly from person to person. However, there are some withdrawal symptoms which seem to be common in many people, such as:
Because there is no physical addiction present, this rather indicates a psychological addiction to antidepressants. In many cases people feel that, after taking a certain medication, they are no longer capable of continuing positive evolution without the support of this medication. The fear of relapse often plays a large role in this. Because depression is linked to a feeling of helplessness, a low self-esteem, and hopelessness, it can be the case that these same feelings, albeit possibly not to the same extent, are linked to whether or not one quits antidepressants; the antidepressants can feel like a requirement in avoiding potential relapse and continuing positive evolution.