Addiction is a complex phenomenon with a myriad of genetic and environmental factors. Every person is unique and has a specific set of genes and personal experiences that have led them to the point of addiction but the negative impact on life, health and family is tragically. Addiction thrives when it is able to isolate a person but it is crucial to understand that there is real help available that can help you to overcome your addiction and start over again.
In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about different types of addiction as well as the most effective treatment options.
What is addiction?
The theory of addiction as a disease was first developed in the 1960s, and in recent decades neuroscience has backed up the notion that addiction takes root in your brain. Modern theories suggest that there are several genes present in those who fall into the clutches of addiction. While these genes alone aren’t enough to cause the illness, they can predispose you to addiction. When these genetic factors combine with a mixture of environmental factors, addiction may present itself.
What are the signs of addiction?
The defining characteristic of addiction is that you’re continuing to carry out the behaviour despite negative consequences. Not only are you likely to suffer from uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when you stop, but you may even experience discomfort or feel very guilty when you’re carrying out the behaviour. You’re inclined to feel like the positive effects outweigh the negative physical and psychological ones, even if it’s clear to everyone around you that this isn’t the case.
In moments of clarity, you may be able to realise that the addiction is doing you more harm than good. In these moments, you may ask for or seek out help. Stress, uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms or simply the inexplicable compulsivity caused by addiction will then lead you back into the cycle of drug abuse. Problems at work, school or home and with your social life and financial situation are often rife when you’re suffering from an addiction.
What are the different types of addiction?
Addiction is a nuanced disease and some people may have more than one addiction at the same time. However, addictions can be split into two main categories; substance addictions and behavioural addictions:
Different drugs (including alcohol) have different effects on your brain and body, but the process of addiction is the same regardless of the type of substance. You may crave the escape and relaxation derived from depressants such as alcohol, opiates, cannabis and some prescription medication such as benzodiazepines (benzos) and sleeping pills. On the other hand, you may crave the confidence and energy provided by stimulants. Drug use usually serves some kind of function in the first place that you feel actually improves your life.
What starts off as a conscious decision to take drugs can begin to form into a habit. With many substances, such as benzos, alcohol and opiates, your body learns how to flush them from your system more quickly, until you develop a tolerance. When you build a tolerance, you need more and more of it to achieve the desired effects. Once you’re taking large quantities on a regular basis, your chances of developing an addiction and being unable to stop increases.
Physical health effects of substance addiction
Health complications associated with substance abuse will vary depending on the substance. For example, the strain excessive alcohol use can place on your internal organs, particularly to your liver, could also result in long-term damage.
Abusing prescription medication can also be dangerous to your physical wellbeing. Primarily, the risk of unintentional overdose is high, especially if they are mixed with alcohol or any other substance. Illegal drugs which are snorted, such as cocaine, can cause haemorrhaging to the nasal wall. Nosebleeds are common, as are sinus infections.
Infections for intravenous drug users are also common. Abscesses can form in the injection site.
Symptoms of abuse rarely get better should the behaviour continue, and more likely than not, you will see your physical health deteriorate more and more, the longer your drug abuse continues.
Mental health effects of substance abuse
To varying degrees, the same thing happens in the brain with all drugs. While each drug has a different mechanism of action, they all increase the activity of the reward pathway by increasing dopamine transmission which “re-programs” the brain to repeat pleasurable behaviours. When this behaviour is repeated regularly, it can have a lasting, negative impact on the brain.
Drugs induce feelings of euphoria or calm, in a brain that is perfectly adept at creating these feelings on its own. When you are chronically using, some drugs can lead to both short- and long-term changes in the brain. In effect, this can lead to mental health issues, including paranoia, depression, anxiety, aggression, hallucinations, and other problems.
Behavioural addictions are very similar to drug addiction. Experts in behavioural science have come to realise that any stimulating activity can be addictive. When a habit becomes a compulsive desire to repeat the behaviour, despite it damaging other aspects of your life, the boundary to addiction has been crossed. Whether it’s gambling, sex or gaming, these processes can be stimulating to the point where an individual loses interest in other aspects of their lives.
It’s important to remember that addiction isn’t a sign of weakness, and it doesn’t make you a bad person. Often, the behaviour is a coping mechanism that helps you to avoid stress and focus on something your brain knows creates pleasure. Once you’ve lost control, the repeated behaviour becomes an extra source of stress, which can perpetuate the situation.
Effects of behavioural addiction
All behavioural addictions whether they are gambling addiction, sex addiction or food addictions can have a hugely negative impact on mental health. The isolation that often comes with addiction means that a person is often left to deal with their addiction alone which can be incredibly difficult and depression, anxiety and suicide are all real risks.
Gambling addiction can be devastating to personal finances while food addictions and disorders can cause real physical health dangers. All behavioural addictions put relationships under strain and can affect work, school and every other aspect of everyday life.
Is there a cure for addiction?
We prefer to avoid words like “cure” and instead refer to those in “recovery” or being “treated” for addiction. We believe the best way to treat addiction is by taking a holistic approach. This means addressing the whole person — body, mind and spirit — instead of just opting for one treatment style. Different methods work for different people, so we encourage you to try as many of the most well-regarded addiction treatments available. The most important thing to be aware of is that detox and rehab are just the beginning of the journey to recovery.
Addiction treatment is an ongoing process that requires maintenance. Learning alternative methods of coping with drug use doesn’t happen overnight. Drug use can be a fix-all for some people’s problems, and we know it can be effective at masking your issues. Treatment requires addressing these facts and arming you with tools to resist relapse.
What is the best treatment option available?
Inpatient treatment is highly recommended for treating addiction because it gives you the opportunity to receive full-spectrum treatment in one place. Sanctuary Lodge is a state-of-the-art residential rehab centre that provides a multitude of treatments and activities for those who are struggling with addiction. We use evidence-based methods such as CBD and DBT, group therapy following the 12-step framework and holistic therapies such as art therapy, music therapy and yoga.
With residential rehab, you go through the withdrawal process under the supportive team of addiction specialists. If you feel anxious or uncomfortable, you can seek their advice at any time of the day or night. In some cases, they’ll be able to provide medication to ease you through the process. You also gain a ready-made support network in your fellow residents, with the close proximity of living together bringing you all together.
We also provide one year of free aftercare, as studies have shown that people who stay in treatment for at least a year are more likely to maintain abstinence in the long term. You’ll build strong bonds with your care team that can support you through the most important stage in your recovery. UKAT Alumni is a lifelong scheme that you become part of when you finish rehab, which provides a nationwide support network of fellow survivors to socialise and enjoy sobriety with.