In the past, addiction meant an uncontrollable use of drugs or alcohol. The concept of addiction has more recently expanded to behaviors, as well as substances, and even ordinary day-to-day activities, such as eating, sex and exercise. Regardless of the activity, excessive engagement creates addiction, followed by significant emotional and physical problems.
While addiction to substances has often appeared clear-cut, there’s some debate about which substances are truly addictive. Current guidelines indicate that most mood-altering substances, including prescription medications, have the potential to be addictive. There is still much debate about behaviour addictions and more research is needed to clarify this issue. Gambling addiction, though, has been recognised for many years as an impulse control disorder.
Substance use is not always an indication of addiction, although illegal drug use carries numerous health and social risks as well as addiction. Parents shouldn’t automatically assume their child is an addict if they discover drug use.
Generally speaking, addictive behavior is self-destructive and unsustainable, causing problems for the individual and those around them. An addict will continue to engage in self destructive conduct, despite the problems it causes.
Addicts are not necessarily hopeless, homeless and unhappy people whose lives are falling apart. Many addicts do not believe they are addicted as long as they are able to conduct a normal life, as they understand it. In some cases, addicts can function for many years without understanding the true consequences of their addiction.
Addictions harm both the addict and those around them. In many cases the addict fails to recognise the harm their addiction is creating, choosing to ignore the effects on health, family, work and relationships. Blaming outside circumstances or other people is a common occurrence.
Many people fear the term addiction and believe it is an indication of moral failure or worthlessness. Addicts often carry stigma about their own behaviour, leading to shame, isolation and fear of seeking help.
Researchers have been studying the connection between trauma and addiction in order to understand why so many drug and alcohol abusers have histories of traumatic experiences. Data gathered in the Adverse Childhood Experiences study indicate that a child who experiences four or more traumatic events is five times more likely to become an alcoholic, 60% more likely to become obese, and up to 46 times more likely to become an injecting drug user than the general population.
Those who have experienced trauma often struggle to tolerate discomfort. When facing negative emotions, instead of coping with them in a healthy manner, they tend to turn to quick fixes, such as drug or alcohol use. While these quick fixes may work in the short-term, they tend to make matters worse in the long-term. In the context of addiction recovery, it’s important, that addicts be mindful and informed of the impact the trauma. For those struggling with a substance disorder, trauma can worsen issues, hinder recovery and trigger relapses.