Health In The Bay – AILMENTS – Addictions
Addiction is the medical 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 and responsibilities such as work, relationships and health. Most addictive behaviour is due to being emotionally stressed.
In a Physical addiction, your body adapts to the presence of the drug so that it no longer has the same effect (also known as tolerance) and eventually your body’s cells can’t function without a substance or drug. Once your body has become depleted of the substance, painful withdrawal symptoms are experienced, including shakes, nausea diarrhoea, chills and body aches. Physical addiction is treated with a detox program where you are slowly weaned and when that is completed, the psychological addiction is treated.
Emotional, or Psychological addiction is a compulsion and a perceived need to use. The person would not experience the physical effects of withdrawal, but can still have emotional or motivational withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety or a reduced capacity to experience pleasure.
Smoking is a physical addiction with nicotine as the addictive substance. The risk of developing dependence to nicotine is believed to be higher than that of cocaine, alcohol or marijuana. Nicotine gives you a feeling of arousal, relaxation and improved concentration. It also gives you some withdrawal symptoms such as nervousness, restlessness, irritability, anxiety and impaired concentration. Throughout the day, a smoker will experience nicotine withdrawal many times.
It is well known that nicotine patches can be effective in helping quitting. It is also helpful to see a Psychotherapist to work through the motivational/emotional side of addiction. Acupuncture is also helpful as an adjunct to treatment for addiction. It can help with the stress that comes with giving up an addictive substance,
Eating is a physical addiction which affects the reward system in the brain. Some foods stimulate the reward system in the same way as drugs like cocaine. The reward system releases dopamine which is then interpreted as pleasure. You do build a tolerance to this dopamine response, and experience withdrawal symptoms.
Seeing a Psychotherapist is a great place to start, to help you recognise and work through any emotional issues or blocks that can be lingering and resulting in addictive behaviour.
People also speak of emotional eating, or some are aware of cravings during different times of their menstrual cycle, possibly due to hormonal changes. Here Acupuncture has a role in reducing stress and therefore the emotional eating.
There is a distinction between alcohol abuse, and alcohol addiction (dependency). They both involve alcohol use that is self destructive and dangerous to themselves or others, but alcohol abusers have some ability to set limits on their drinking.
Alcohol abuse signs and symptoms include neglecting responsibilities at home, work or school; using alcohol in situations where it is physically dangerous e.g. drink driving;experiencing legal problems due to drinking; continuing to drink although it is causing issues in relationships; drinking as a way to relax.
Alcoholism (or alcohol addiction) involves all the above symptoms, but also physical dependence on alcohol.
Alcohol abuse is a big risk factor for alcoholism. Alcoholism can come up suddenly in response to a stressful change, or gradually as tolerance to alcohol increases.
Psychotherapy is a great places to start if you are wanting to stop drinking. It can help with the emotional reasons behind the need to drink.
Acupuncture is also helpful as an adjunct to treatment for addiction. It can help with the stress that comes with giving up an addictive substance,
There are a variety of drugs that can be involved in addiction. There are recreational drugs such as Cocaine, Methamphetamines, Cannabis and Heroin that most people consider when talking about drug addiction, but there is also a number of prescription medications that are involved in drug addiction or abuse. These include commonly prescribed drugs for pain (opioids), for anxiety (Nervous system depressants) and stimulants (for ADHD).
Drugs have the effect of causing disruption to the normal way brain cells send, receive and process information, in two ways; either by imitating the brain’s natural chemical messengers (neurotransmitters), eg marijuana and heroin, or by overstimulating the “reward circuit” of the brain, by releasing abnormally large amounts of neurotransmitters, eg methamphetamines and cocaine. These both have the effect of targeting the brain’s reward centre by flooding the circuit with a neurotransmitter Dopamine. This produces euphoric effects in response to the drugs, which set in motion a pattern of wanting to re-use and hence abuse drugs.
It is because of these changes in the brain that it is so difficult to stop abusing drugs when addicted. It is not enough to want to quit, or a matter of willpower. That is why when you are trying to quit is is important to utilise a number of treatments, addressing different factors in addiction. The 2 main categories of treatment are Pharmacological and Behavioural. If your addiction can be helped with the use of Pharmacological treatments, once you have seen your doctor and started down this pathway, then it is important to address other factors. Psychotherapy which is behavioural therapy (including a branch called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is essential in treating addictions, as it can help you address any underlying emotional causes of drug abuse, but also teaches you strategies to function without drugs, deal with cravings, avoid drugs and situations that could lead to drug use and how to handle a relapse should it occur.
Acupuncture is also helpful as an adjunct to treatment for addiction. It can help with the stress that comes with giving up an addictive substance.
If you need help for substance abuse or addiction, call Helpline on 13 1 1 14.
For emergencies, call the Emergency Call Service on 000.
The information on this website is not intended to diagnose, treat or replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional who is familiar with your individual situation and is not intended as medical advice. You should not begin treatment with us if you have a medical condition that precludes any of our therapies or changes to nutritional or exercise routines.