What is addiction?
Addiction is a psychological and physical inability to stop consuming a chemical, drug, activity, or substance, even though it is causing psychological and physical harm.
The term addiction does not only refer to dependence on substances such as heroin or cocaine. A person who cannot stop taking a particular drug or chemical has substance dependence.
Some addictions also involve an inability to stop partaking in activities, such as gambling, eating, or working. In these circumstances, a person has a behavioural addiction.
Addiction is a chronic disease that can also result from taking medications. The overuse of prescribed opioid painkillers, for example, causes 115 deaths every day in the United States.
When a person experiences addiction, they cannot control how they use a substance or partake in an activity, and they become dependent on it to cope with daily life.
Every year, addiction to alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, and prescription opioids costs the U.S. economy upward of $740 billion in treatment costs, lost work, and the effects of crime.
Most people start using a drug or first engage in an activity voluntarily. However, addiction can take over and reduce self-control.
Addiction vs. misuse
Drug addiction and drug misuse are different.
Misuse refers to the incorrect, excessive, or non-therapeutic use of body- and mind-altering substances.
However, not everybody that misuses a substance has an addiction. Addiction is the long-term inability to moderate or cease intake.
For example, a person who drinks alcohol heavily on a night out may experience both the euphoric and harmful effects of the substance.
However, this does not qualify as an addiction until the person feels the need to consume this amount of alcohol regularly, alone, or at times of day when the alcohol will likely impair regular activities, such as in the morning.
A person who has not yet developed an addiction may be put off further use by the harmful side effects of substance abuse. For example, vomiting or waking up with a hangover after drinking too much alcohol may deter some people from drinking that amount anytime soon.
Someone with an addiction will continue to misuse the substance in spite of the harmful effects.
The primary indications of addiction are:
Stopping the use of a drug can lead to anxiety.
When a person has an addiction and they stop taking the substance or engaging in the behavior, they may experience certain symptoms.
These symptoms include:
If a person has regularly used alcohol or benzodiazepines, and they stop suddenly or without medical supervision, withdrawal can be fatal.
Medicinal advances and progress in diagnosing have helped the medical community develop various ways to manage and resolve addiction.
Addiction treatment is highly personalized and often requires the support of the individual’s community or family.
Treatment can take a long time and may be complicated. Addiction is a chronic condition with a range of psychological and physical effects. Each substance or behavior may require different management.
What are the complications of addiction?
Addiction is a complicated disease involving an inability to stop taking a substance or carrying out a particularly damaging behavior. It can lead to a range of adverse psychological, physiological, and personal effects.
The complications of addiction often depend on the type of substance or behavior. Sex addiction, for example, greatly increases the risk of sexual behaviours that could lead to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
It is very often not one type of complication that disrupts the daily the life of a person with addiction. These factors often feed each other and work in tandem to create health risks.
Overusing mood- or physiology-altering substances can cause damage in a number of ways.
Direct effects of substances: For example, snorting cocaine through the nose can damage nasal cartilage, and taking opiates can lead to opiate-induced constipation, a chronic and potentially fatal form of constipation if a person does not receive treatment.
Regular tobacco use can cause a range of cancers and smoking methamphetamine might fuel a severe form of dental decay known as “meth mouth”.
Injury: This can occur during the administration of a drug, depending on the method. For example, injecting heroin with a needle can lead to skin and muscle damage at the point of injection, and many people take drugs by smoking, causing lung damage and respiratory illnesses.
Injury can also occur while intoxicated. Often, drug use impairs co-ordination and balance and can lead to falls and injuries. Driving while under the influence of alcohol and other drugs is criminal in most countries and caused 28 percent of all deaths related to traffic across the United States in 2016.
Some substances induce violent reactions in people and increase the likelihood of risky or confrontational behaviors.
Overdose: Taking too much of one substance or mixing substances together can result in an overdose. While this can also occur with medications and pharmaceuticals, it is more likely to occur in a person who takes a substance to alter their mood or for recreational purposes.
Loss of hygiene and routine: Addiction can become an all-encompassing feature in a person’s life, and reward systems in the brain can rewire to prioritize the substance or behavior at the root of the addiction over nutrition, resolving stressful situations, and hygiene.
Addiction can also mean that a person dedicates large sums of money each month to obtaining the substance, increasing the risk of poor nutrition.
In some cases, addiction can lead to homelessness, greatly reducing protection and resources and increasing exposure to the elements.
Fetal damage: If a woman takes substances while pregnant, this can lead to congenital anomalies or even death in the fetus.
However, drug use can also set off the symptoms of these conditions as well as causing them to develop when they were not present before.
Addiction not only impairs a range of bodily functions but also changes the way a person thinks. Drug use alters how some brain circuits work.
Psychoactive substances: Many drugs directly cause hallucinations and longer-term psychological effects that can lead to severe mental health problems.
Excessive use of LSD, for example, might result in a slipping handle on reality and drug-induced psychosis.
Depression: A 2014 study linked lifetime use of a number of different substances to increased levels of depression.
Anxiety, restlessness, guilt, and shame can also result from prolonged substance dependency and behavioural addiction.
Loneliness: People with addiction tend to push away the people closest to them and this removes or drastically reduces an individual’s support network when they need it the most.
This can fuel further drug use and push people with addiction towards the more severe complications.
Adverse circumstances: Drug addiction might lead people to financial problems, homelessness, criminal activity, and prison. Deteriorating personal circumstances increase stress levels, depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
Suicide: A 2015 study showed that six times as many people who regularly misuse opiates attempt suicide as people who do not misuse opiates. The rate of death by suicide was two to three times higher in people who had a dependency on opiates.
People use certain drugs as a way to attempt suicide, such as heroin. When the effects of the drugs themselves combine with resulting or underlying psychological difficulties, the results can be lethal.
A substance disorder can make a person feel isolated, which might fuel further drug use and impact on relationships.
Addiction can change relationships to the people closest to the person with the condition. These can compound the effects of addiction on the brain and body.
Relationships: Often, obtaining the substance or enacting the behavior at the root of an addiction supplants obligations to other people, even family and dependents.
Finances: Not only can the costs of regularly purchasing substances or pursuing behavioral impulses mount up, but addiction can also drive a person further and further from their place of employment and financial responsibilities. This can lead to difficulties that further compound the other health issues that can arise from addiction.
Crime: Many psychoactive substances are illicit, and even possessing them can put a person in jail. However, people may also resort to crime to fund drug misuse, especially as drug addiction can lead to unemployment as the substance or behavior starts to replace personal responsibilities.
What is alcohol addiction?
Alcohol addiction, also known as alcoholism, is a disease that affects people of all walks of life. Experts have tried to pinpoint factors like genetics, sex, race, or socioeconomics that may predispose someone to alcohol addiction. But it has no single cause. Psychological, genetic, and behavioural factors can all contribute to having the disease.
It’s important to note that alcoholism is a real disease. It can cause changes to the brain and neurochemistry, so a person with an alcohol addiction may not be able to control their actions.
Alcohol addiction can show itself in a variety of ways. The severity of the disease, how often someone drinks, and the alcohol they consume varies from person to person. Some people drink heavily all day, while others binge drink and then stay sober for a while.
Regardless of how the addiction looks, someone typically has an alcohol addiction if they heavily rely on drinking and can’t stay sober for an extended period of time.
What are the symptoms of alcoholism?
Alcohol addiction can be difficult to recognize. Unlike cocaine or heroin, alcohol is widely available and accepted in many cultures. It’s often at the center of social situations and closely linked to celebrations and enjoyment.
Drinking is a part of life for many people. When is it common in society, it can be hard to tell the difference between someone who likes to have a few drinks now and then and someone with a real problem.
Some symptoms of alcohol addiction are:
As an addiction tends to get worse over time, it’s important to look for early warning signs. If identified and treated early, someone with an alcohol addiction may be able to avoid major consequences of the disease.
If you’re worried that someone you know has an alcohol addiction, it’s best to approach them in a supportive way. Avoid shaming them or making them feel guilty. This could push them away and make them more resistant to your help.
What health complications are associated with alcoholism?
Alcohol addiction can result in heart disease and liver disease. Both can be fatal. Alcoholism can also cause:
If someone with an alcohol addiction takes dangerous risks while drinking, they can also put others at risk. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drunk driving, for example, takes 28 lives every day in the United States. Drinking is also associated with an increased incidence of suicide and homicide.
These complications are reasons why it’s important to treat alcohol addiction early. Nearly all risks involved with alcohol addiction may be avoidable or treatable, with successful long-term recovery.
What are treatment options for alcoholism?
Treating alcohol addiction can be complex and challenging. In order for treatment to work, the person with an alcohol addiction must want to get sober. You can’t force them to stop drinking if they aren’t ready. Success depends on the person’s desire to get better.
The recovery process for alcoholism is a lifetime commitment. There isn’t a quick fix and it involves daily care. For this reason, many people say alcohol addiction is never “cured.”
A common initial treatment option for someone with an alcohol addiction is an outpatient or inpatient rehabilitation program. An inpatient program can last anywhere from 30 days to a year. It can help someone handle withdrawal symptoms and emotional challenges. Outpatient treatment provides daily support while allowing the person to live at home.
What are resources for treating alcoholism?
Someone with an alcohol addiction may also benefit from other treatments including:
A doctor may prescribe drugs to help certain conditions. For example, antidepressants, if someone with an alcohol addiction were self-medicating to treat their depression. Or a doctor could prescribe drugs to assist with other emotions common in recovery.
Therapy is useful to help teach someone how to manage the stress of recovery and the skills needed to prevent a relapse. Also, a healthy diet can help undo damage alcohol may have done to the person’s health, like weight gain or loss.
Alcohol addiction may involve several different treatment methods. It’s important that each person get involved in a recovery program that will support long-term sobriety. This could mean an emphasis on therapy for someone who is depressed, or inpatient treatment for someone with severe withdrawal symptoms.
What is the outlook for alcoholism?
Early treatment of alcoholism is most effective. Addictions that have gone on longer are harder to break. However, long-term addictions can be successfully treated.
Friends and family members of people who have an alcohol addiction can benefit from professional support.
Someone with an alcohol addiction who has remained sober for months or years may find themselves drinking again. They may binge drink once or drink for a period of time before getting sober again. But a relapse doesn’t indicate failure. It’s important that the person get back on track and resume treatment.
Ultimately, sobriety is the responsibility of the person who has the alcohol addiction. It’s important to not enable destructive behaviors and to maintain appropriate boundaries if the person with the alcohol addiction is still drinking. This can mean cutting off financial assistance or making it difficult for them to fulfil the addiction.
As a loved one of someone with an alcohol addiction, try to be encouraging and provide emotional support.
Sex addiction can refer to a range of behaviours that aredone in excess and significantly impact one’s life in a negative way.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V (DSM-5) does not list sex addiction as a diagnosable condition yet, but research indicates that there is a clear prevalence of adverse sexual behaviour that is similar in development to a “chemical” addiction.
Is Porn Addiction the Same as Sex Addiction?
Porn addiction and sex addiction are not the same disorder. Addiction to porn is considered to be a type of sex addiction and can manifest itself differently than other types of sex addiction. Like “sex addiction,” “porn addiction” is not an official diagnosis in the DSM-5 yet. However, an addiction to porn can lead to serious distress and consequences in many facets of life.
What Are the Different Types of Sexual Addictions?
There are no distinct categories, but sexual addictions can come in different forms, including addiction to:
What are the Signs, Symptoms, and Effects of a Sexual Addiction?
Several signs can serve to indicate whether someone is addicted to sex. These can be emotional or physical. Furthermore, it’s important to know the debilitating effects of sexual addiction.
Emotional Symptoms of Sex Addiction
If you or someone you love suffers from a sex addiction, you might not have healthy boundaries. If your husband is addicted to porn or sex, you may feel alienated, isolated, depressed, angry, or humiliated and need treatment yourself. If you are addicted to sex, you might become easily involved with people sexually or emotionally regardless of how well you know them, according to Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. Because most sex addicts fear being abandoned, they might stay in relationships that aren’t healthy, or they may jump from relationship to relationship. When alone, they might feel empty or incomplete. They might also sexualize feelings like guilt, loneliness or fear.
Physical Symptoms of Sex Addiction
Although a sex addiction or pornography addiction can create many physical side effects, few physical symptoms of this disorder exist. However, the most common physical sex addict symptoms you might notice from having a sexual addiction is feeling immobilized due to sexual or emotional obsessions.
Effects of Sex Addiction
The effects of a sex addiction can be severe.
Additionally, sex addiction likely has a negative impact on several areas of one’s life. It can lead to:
It can have profound psychological effects, like generating feelings of shame, inadequacy, and emotional distress. It can lead to, or stem from, comorbid psychological disorders like:
It is important to know that addressing co-occurring problems in one’s life, like depression, social anxiety, or social isolation, can make it easier to recover from sexual addiction.
Am I Addicted to Sex?
It is best to consult with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation of your sex addiction; however, you may also want to look out for the following signs:
If you’re exhibiting any of these symptoms, it might be time to seek sex addiction treatment. If you also have a co-occurring substance addiction (e.g., alcohol, cocaine), call to learn more about treatment options.
Get Help for Sex Addiction
It is important to understand that although sex and porn addiction are not “formally” diagnosable, these conditions exist and often present with very adverse consequences and high levels of distress, guilt, and emotional turmoil. If you can relate to the symptoms mentioned above, or know somebody who meets these criteria, do not hesitate to ask for help. Call to speak to a treatment support specialist who can provide you with more information.
What Causes an Addiction to Sex?
Sexual addiction, like porn addiction, can develop due to factors that encompass all aspects of an individual’s life. These include:
Can Sex Addiction Be Treated?
Yes, sex addiction can be treated. You will typically want to speak with a mental health professional, like a psychologist or licensed social worker. They will help you address some of the underlying factors that are maintaining your sex or porn addiction, and teach you to cope with your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours in a healthy way.
Some treatment options include:
To find an addiction treatment centre or to find out more information about the process of treating sex and/or porn addiction, call.
Medication: Are There Sex Addiction Drug Options?
There are currently no US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medications for the treatment of sex addiction.
Sex addiction and related sexual dysfunctions frequently co-occur with conditions such as anxiety and depression and can be treated with medications such as antidepressants.
If a patient doesn’t respond well to antidepressants, there are a couple of other options.
Additionally, anti-androgenic medications can help curb sexual cravings by decreasing the levels of male hormones in the body.
If your doctor prescribes you medication, be sure to read the label carefully and follow the doctor’s dosage instructions in order to avoid an overdose. If you feel tempted to overdose on your medication, call for help immediately.
Medication Side Effects
Although there are no FDA-approved medications for sex or porn addiction, antidepressants are one of the most common medications prescribed to treat sex addiction. Antidepressants are very safe to take but can have some side effects.
Naltrexone, a medication used to treat alcohol and opioid addiction, has proven promising in treating sex and porn addiction. It may cause some side effects as well:
While these side effects may be troubling, some side effects are far more dangerous and life-threatening:
Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of these serious side effects.
Anti-androgens, medications that block the effects of male hormones, present with an array of side effects:
Similarities between Being Addicted to a Drug and Addicted to Sex
Effects on the Brain
Drug addiction and sex addiction have similar effects on the brain–both primarily influence the brain’s reward system through a neurotransmitter called dopamine. When a person satisfies a need or desire that is vital to survival or reproduction, dopamine is released, causing the person to experience pleasure or euphoria. This reinforces the expectation of reward and increases the desire to engage in the underlying behaviour.
This is what makes it so difficult for addicts to quit and why professional help should be sought.
Many sex addicts believe that they are in control of their behaviours, but without proper treatment, they can develop dependence. It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of dependence, so that you can seek help immediately. A few signs include:
Perhaps the most important sign that one is dependent on sex is that the person continues to partake in sexual behaviour despite negative consequences caused by the behaviour, such as:
Withdrawal is a characteristic feature of chemical addictions and reports indicate that individuals struggling with sexual addictions frequently report experiencing withdrawal after a reduction in sexual activity. Withdrawal symptoms can include but are not limited to:
It is important to note that no two sex addicts are the same and that withdrawal symptoms may vary.
Sex Addiction and Substance Abuse
There is a significant correlation between sexual addiction and substance use disorders:
Treating co-occurring addictions is a complex process. Medical professionals must assess the pattern of drug use and sexual behaviours and how they relate to each other. Research indicates that there are two important things to consider when evaluating the relation:
Once the interaction of multiple addictions is assessed, then proper treatment can be administered.
While some sex addicts use substances in order to cope with the pain and guilt caused by their sexual behaviours, others use them to enhance the sexual experience. If you think that you have issues with both sex addiction and substance addiction, it is critical to your recovery that you find a treatment centre that can cater to both of these addictions.
Sex Addiction and Mental Health Disorders
There seems to be a high correlation between sex addiction and psychiatric conditions, particularly mood, anxiety and personality disorders.
Clinical depression, which is often co-occurring with sex addiction, is a serious mental health illness that, if left untreated, can be life-threatening. Typical symptoms include:
Difficulty concentrating on tasks.
Again, if you are a sex addict and believe that you suffer from depression; contact your medical provider immediately. It is pertinent that your treatment plan addresses both your depression and sex addiction.