1. What is addiction? You mean, drink and drugs, right?
You can become addicted to almost anything – alcohol, drugs, sex, porn, masturbation, gambling, football, slots, work, computer games, exercise, sugar, shopping. The addiction list goes on. Something fun that gets you buzzing in small doses can become dangerous in big doses when you become attached to it, leading to physical and mental health problems.
Many people think that addiction is the core problem. However, addiction and substance abuse disorders are often a temporary method to self sooth and cope with other issues, which often need to be addressed through counselling or therapy.
2. At what point does something become an addiction? How do I know if I have a problem?
According to research, there is a fine line between habit and addiction, based on factors such as time spent engaging in the behaviour, chemical reactions in the brain and whether or not you experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop.
Broadly there are two types of addicts:
- The “topper-upper” who needs a fix regularly.
- The “binge user” who loses it every so often.
Every habit, from exercising to binge drinking to eating a specific type of food to sex, begins with something known as the “habit loop.” This starts with a certain trigger which leads to an action, the action repeated becomes a habit. This habit can create a reward sensation in the brain.
Addiction, however, occurs when you are no longer able to stop, control or function normally without the pleasurable activity or substance, for example alcohol, substance abuse, food, sex or pornography.
If you feel that your favourite habit has become an addiction, there is hope; research has suggested that it takes 21 days to break a habit. In his international best-selling book, Atomic Habits, James Clear outlined 3 ways to change behaviour, outcomes, process and identity. With identity being the fastest way to change behaviour.
Depending on the reasons it became a habit in the first place, the neuropeptide connections in the brain that reinforce the habit can take longer to break. For stronger addictions, such as drug addictions, patients may need to identify any underlying causes first and then rehabilitation may help to rewire the brain and break the addiction.
3. How do you know if you have an addiction?
Someone with an addiction will crave a substance or other behavioral habits. They’ll often ignore other areas of life to fulfill or support their desires.
General signs of addiction are:
- lack of control, or inability to stay away from a substance or behavior
- decreased socialization, like abandoning commitments or ignoring relationships
- ignoring risk factors, like sharing needles despite potential consequences
- physical effects, like withdrawal symptoms or needing higher dosage for effect
These signs are commonly linked. The degree of intensity for each sign may depend on how long the addiction has been going on.
By way of a definition, “addiction” is described as a compulsive need to perform certain behaviours in order to achieve the kind of “fix” that a person with alcohol use disorder gets from a drink or someone with opiate use disorder gets from using opiates.
For some people, addiction can be highly dangerous and result in considerable difficulties with relationships. Not only limited to drug and alcohol dependence, addiction has the potential to negatively impact a person’s physical and mental health, personal relationships, quality of life and safety.
4. What are the symptoms of addiction?
One characteristic may be secrecy of behaviors, in which the person with the disorder becomes skilled at hiding their behavior and can even keep the condition secret from spouses, partners and family members. They may lie about their activities or engage in them at times and places where they won’t be found out.
But sometimes symptoms are present and noticeable. A person may have an addiction if they show some or all of the following signs:
- chronic, obsessive thoughts and fantasies
- compulsive unhealthy behaviour
- lying to cover behaviors
- preoccupation with the focus of addiction, even when it interferes with productivity, work performance, and daily life
- inability to stop or control the behaviors
- putting oneself or others in danger due to the addiction
- feeling remorse or guilt about the addiction, yet still being unable to stop
- experiencing other negative personal or professional consequences
Compulsive behaviors can strain relationships, however, compulsive behaviour does not constitute an addiction. When a person experiences the inability to control or stop certain behaviours, such as a compulsive need to use alcohol, drugs, gambling, food or other stimulants, it may be wise to seek out professional counsel.
A person with an addiction may significantly alter their life and activities in order to feed their addiction multiple times a day and feel they are unable to control their behavior, despite severe negative consequences.
Addictions often are a pleasure-driven compensation for past pain. That is why when you address and resolve the past pain or trauma, it can often assist in recovery from the pleasure-driven addiction.
5. What support is out there for people struggling with addiction?
When considering the right type of addiction rehab, an early question should be to determine if inpatient or outpatient treatment is the best fit for you? Learning as much as you can about these kinds of addiction treatment approaches can help make the decision to enter and, ultimately, the transition into rehab easier.
Inpatient or residential addiction treatment facilities provide immersive addiction treatment where patients live on-site 24 hours a day, allowing them to focus solely on their recovery during that time.1 Inpatient treatment is commonly sought by those with relatively severe addictions and addiction-related issues: however, such a treatment setting can be highly effective for people in many different situations.
Outpatient treatment options also exist for those who prefer to live at home while attending substance abuse treatment sessions for several days a week at the rehab facility.1
Some valuable questions to ask when choosing an addiction treatment programme or facility:
- Do they have a proven track record (how many years have they been successfully helping people recover from addiction?)
- Are they licenced and registered with the Department of Health and Department of Social Development of that country?
- Do they have an expert team, experienced, effective and caring enough to guide you on the road to recovery?
- Do they have a medical detox unit (particularly for alcohol and drug addiction)?
- Do they take a holistic approach to addiction, including all influences on your recovery (e.g. your family, your work, your health, your social relationships?)
- Are they a registered hospital with your country’s hospital network?
- Are they covered by health insurance or Medical Aid?
6. Do Medical Aid or Health Insurance pay for addiction rehab treatment?
A big barrier to rehabilitation programmes is the cost. Many addiction treatment and hospitals and rehab Cape Town centres work with most medical aids to cover drug and alcohol rehabilitation treatment. This means you have access to the best care, without the prohibitive cost. What’s more, many addiction rehabs take care of all the administration and paperwork so you don’t have to…