After time addiction will change the way the brain’s reward system works, meaning an individual will struggle to get a natural “high”, or dopamine release, from normal everyday things like food, intimacy, and laughter. They will also require ever-increasing amounts of their preferred substance or activity as a tolerance builds, and will continue to use more and more, despite the negative consequences. Eventually, they will be using it compulsively just to feel a sense of relief.
In addition to the emotional side of addiction, several substances (including alcohol, opioids, barbiturates, benzodiazepine) are not only psychologically addictive but also physically. Meaning if a person stops taking them abruptly, their body will suffer withdrawal symptoms such as vomiting, anxiety, sweating, tremors, and diarrhoea. These symptoms can be mild, or in some cases serious, and even fatal if not managed correctly.
Often addicts want to stop using, they don’t want to be hurting themselves or those around them. But between their head telling them that they need to use just to gain a sense of relief and their bodies physically demanding the substance, they have no control and feel that there is no way out of the vicious cycle. They need outside help and in some cases, a professional medical detox.
We can be in denial of what is happening to someone we love, what their behaviour is doing to us and the family around them. Sometimes it is easier to pretend everything is okay, to continue to enable the addict in their use, than to make a stand, have a confrontation, or insist upon things changing and the individual getting help.
Some people believe that because they continue to have a successful career, plenty of money, a nice house, make sure the children are looked after, get them to school on time, only drink at weekends or in the evenings; that they don’t have a problem. And maybe they don’t.
But if your alcohol and drug use; or your gambling, internet, or shopping addiction; feels like it is out of control. If you have tried to stop or cut down; and found that you couldn’t. If it is making you, or the people around you unhappy. Then these are all signs that there could be an issue that needs addressing.
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