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What is addiction - a personal perspective
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What is addiction?

The Oxford English dictionary defines addiction as
“The fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance or activity”

What is addiction though is it something that we feel on an emotional or physical level or indeed both and how do really know if you are an addict.  There are so many unique and individual facets to this question to define it seems like a near impossible task.  We can like something and repeat it daily but does this mean it’s an addiction or simply something we enjoy?

Like everything else related to human beings as we are each made up basically the same way but with differences that are only part of us ourselves so finding a definitive answer to this question is going to be hard.  No doubt any professional in this field would be able to ask a set of pre-defined questions that had been developed by some great academic and come up with a score between one and ten that would tell you if you were an addict.  Box ticked off you go but I’m not sure this leaves people satisfied effectively labelled and immediately stigmatised in society.

As we can surmise the NHS doesn’t have the resources that could effectively challenge this identification and badging people and channelling them into services that simply don’t have the finances or staff to deal with what would ideally be effective is already in my mind setting people up to fail.  Addiction is a huge and complex issue often accompanied by very other complex needs.  There is simply nothing straightforward about it.

https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/si...d-symptoms lists the signs of addiction as this
Physical and health warning signs of drug abuse
Eyes that are bloodshot or pupils that are smaller or larger than normal.
Frequent nosebleeds--could be related to snorted drugs (meth or cocaine).
Changes in appetite or sleep patterns.  Sudden weight loss or weight gain.
Seizures without a history of epilepsy.
Deterioration in personal grooming or physical appearance.
Injuries/accidents and person won’t or can’t tell you how they got hurt.
Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing.
Shakes, tremors, incoherent or slurred speech, impaired or unstable coordination.
 
Behavioral signs of drug abuse
Drop in attendance and performance at work or school; loss of interest in extracurricular activities, hobbies, sports or exercise; decreased motivation.
Complaints from co-workers, supervisors, teachers or classmates.
Unusual or unexplained need for money or financial problems; borrowing or stealing; missing money or valuables.
Silent, withdrawn, engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors.
Sudden change in relationships, friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies.
Frequently getting into trouble (arguments, fights, accidents, illegal activities).
 
Psychological warning signs of drug abuse
Unexplained change in personality or attitude.
Sudden mood changes, irritability, angry outbursts or laughing at nothing.
Periods of unusual hyperactivity or agitation.
Lack of motivation; inability to focus, appearing lethargic or “spaced out.”
 Appearing fearful, withdrawn, anxious, or paranoid, with no apparent reason.
Signs and symptoms of Drug Dependence:
 
Drug dependence involves all the symptoms of drug abuse, but also involves another element: physical dependence.
1. Tolerance:  Tolerance means that, over time, you need more drugs to feel the same effects.  Do they use more drugs now than they used before?  Do they use more drugs than other people without showing obvious signs of intoxication?
 
2. Withdrawal:  As the effect of the drugs wear off, the person may experience withdrawal symptoms:  anxiety or jumpiness; shakiness or trembling; sweating, nausea and vomiting; insomnia; depression; irritability; fatigue or loss of appetite and headaches.  Do they use drugs to steady the nerves, stop the shakes in the morning?  Drug use to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms is a sign of addiction.
 
In severe cases, withdrawal from drugs can be life-threatening and involve hallucinations, confusion, seizures, fever, and agitation.  These symptoms can be dangerous and should be managed by a physician specifically trained and experienced in dealing with addiction.
 
3. Loss of Control:  Using more drugs than they wanted to, for longer than they intended, or despite telling themselves that they wouldn’t do it this time.
 
4. Desire to Stop, But Can’t:  They have a persistent desire to cut down or stop their drug use, but all efforts to stop and stay stopped, have been unsuccessful.
 
5. Neglecting Other Activities:  They are spending less time on activities that used to be important to them (hanging out with family and friends, exercising or going to the gym, pursuing hobbies or other interests) because of the use of drugs.
 
6. Drugs Take Up Greater Time, Energy and Focus:  They spend a lot of time using drugs, thinking about it, or recovering from its effects.  They have few, if any, interests, social or community involvements that don’t revolve around the use of drugs.
 
7. Continued Use despite Negative Consequences:  They continue to use drugs even though they know it’s causing problems.  As an example, person may realize that their drug use is interfering with ability to do their job, is damaging their marriage, making problems worse, or causing health problems, but they continue to use.
 
All of the above are a very good indicators of what addiction really is and how it can be recognised.  For the person with the problem this is not always clear cut and often self-denial is the biggest problem in actually recognising that there is an issue with addiction.  To be able to confront this there must be some form of recognition otherwise whatever you are told will fall on deaf ears, to be honest with yourself is sometimes that hardest thing to do.  The second point of progress is actually recognising any negative behaviours that are associated with addiction and how they impact on your life and the lives of people around you if indeed they do at all.  Once there has been acceptance with the will to change the next step is actually affecting that change, this is probably the most unique part in the journey of recovery.

Only too well do we see even here on the forum accounts from individuals that are so different in how people have addressed the problems they face.  Often people wish to cease use immediately to make a statement outwardly that shows they have faced the problem and are taking steps for everyone to see how serious they are about this.  Different types of drugs will of course have an impact on how withdrawal and recovery are managed. 

What I would like to think is that there are guidelines and certain methods which will work well for many people but there will always be exceptions to the rules.  People need to be able to explore different options and effectively trial methods and not be felt to have failed if they don’t straight away succeed in their efforts.  Why should people be penalised for simply being human?

Often addiction is something that creeps up on people completely unknowingly and to suddenly find that what was once a fun and recreational interest has become part of a daily routine can be frightening and very difficult to come to terms with. Often this has happened over a long period of time,to change this simply isn't going to happen overnight, changing patterns and behaviours can sometimes take years to take effect for some people.  However the change happens and however long it takes should never be viewed negatively, simply that everyone is different and that each response is different.

I do believe with the right support and guidance for the majority of people addiction can be overcome and valuable lessons learned.  For some people also despite many efforts simply put there will also be issues.  Not everyone can be helped or even not everyone wants to be helped. 

So what’s prompted this post from me?  In recent weeks I have recognised that the forum has limitations beyond any of our controls, whilst I still believe it plays a significant part in reducing harm it can also have the opposite effect on some people and encourage addiction. 
If anyone feels that they have an issue around addiction that they need to address there will always be support here from the team and invaluably you the members but also it must be stressed that online interaction has limitations.  There are many incredibly good services available that provide face to face contact and in the first instance my recommendation would be to self-refer to a local drugs project who should have a much better understanding of the issue than a GP who simply will not have the time or resources to spend looking at the complex needs of the individual.  If there are health concerns around addiction it is vitally important that the advice of a health care professional is sought.  If anyone feels that they have not been treated in a suitable manner then there are procedures that can be followed which I am always happy to advise on please PM me or a team member who may wish to share information in confidence with other team members in order to provide the best possible outcome.
The most valuable service I think we can offer here is that no one should ever feel isolated or alone at this time.

It may not be an easy decision to make and is in all likelihood going to be even harder to take steps to address but it can be done. If this has raised any concerns to anyone and you would like to discuss this further them please PM me and I will do my very best to help.

I am also running a thread alongside this which I hope will help support my theory about how unique addiction can be and would ask anyone that feels comfortable to contribute here https://www.ukchemicalresearch.org/Threa...personally
Many thanks Blodwyn

Renton edited 30-11-2016 06:17 AM this post because:

updated link

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Any views or opinions posted by members are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the UKCR staff team.