The real effects of addiction. Believe it or not, addiction is a disease. Just like other diseases, you will find that addiction will have a number of effects. These effects can make life difficult for you and those around you as well. Keep in mind that while addicts may begin their use in a voluntary manner, it does create chemical changes within your body and brain. Memories and behaviors will be affected as well. One’s perception of pleasure and pain is often changed during use and this can also result in continued used, resulting in addiction. This happens because as the drug is introduced within the body it will cause an interference with the normal communication of the brain. When an individual becomes addicted to drugs his or her body will begin to experience cravings. As they continue to use they will experience numerous physical consequences throughout their body. Some of these consequences will not be noticed as the individual continues to use. These may include complications such as cancer, hormone changes and even organ damage. Prolonged use may even result in neurological and emotional changes. Depression is not uncommon as the user will feel remorse related to their actions. They may also feel depressed when they are no longer able to achieve the desired effects of the drug after continual use. Either way, the individual becomes increasingly more depressed and they often use again to deal with these feelings. It simply creates and ongoing cycle of addiction that can be very difficult to break away from. Anxiety, memory loss, aggression and even paranoia are also associated with addiction and the continued use of numerous drugs. Most addicts will report that they feel like law enforcement is always watching, or waiting to arrest them. This could be associated with the fact that they are aware that they engaging in illegal activity.It may come as no surprise to most people that when, someone is using drugs on a regular basis they may find themselves within situations that are illegal. This may be related to the simple fact that most substances that cause addiction are illegal and banned by the government. However, many addicts will still use these substances, increasing the likelihood of facing legal consequences. A few of the experienced effects may include probation, loss of a driver’s license, fines or even spending time in jail.There are a lot of people that never think about the fact that the risk of injuries may be increased when it comes to addiction. The hurt addiction puts on loved ones. The addict is so caught up in his or her addiction most could careless about how their addiction is affecting their loved ones. As the addict sinks deeper and deeper into active addiction he or she begins losing all concept of emotions, mental clearance and a clear thought process of beginning to understanding the devastating effects addiction has had on their loved ones. Many loved ones family members are caught between a rock and a hard place with not understanding how sick the person has become. This is because the user may be engaged in activities that they would otherwise avoid if they were not using. Unintentional injuries and accidents are more likely when addiction is a factor. These injuries are not always consequences for the user either. In fact, the risk of domestic violence may be increased when there is an addict in the home, resulting in injuries for other family members.Addiction may result in negative financial consequences as well. It may become difficult for the individual to pay his or her bills, resulting in job loss. Others may find themselves facing missed house payments or late rent payments. Both of these situations increase the risk of losing one’s home all together. There are also individuals that struggle to keep their relationships intact and this can result in divorce and loss of a household income, making it even more difficult to remain financially stable. This is just one example of how your entire family can be effected by drug addiction.A person’s social life can also be touched by addiction. It becomes very difficult to hide the addiction and the cravings become more compulsive the more the individual uses. Most individuals will tell you that their loved one’s behavior changed and their interests changed as well. These are all consequences that can result in a loss of friends and loved ones. These changes certainly increase the risk of job loss, divorce, and even changes between family members and friends. As previously mentioned, because of emotional problems like depression and anxiety, one’s personal life can change in a negative way.It is easy to see that addiction results in negative effects for the user and those around them. It is no longer acceptable to state that the user is not harming anyone but themselves. Addiction harms everyone and can only have negative consequences for those that are using and those that they love.
In the last twenty five years, I have treated over 5,000 patients with addiction problems. I found that treating addictive behaviours is really no different from treating addictive substances. It is best that they should be treated at the same time and in the same general way.My observation was that the substance addictions and the behavioural addictions tend to come in clusters: the “Hedonistic” cluster, the “Nuturant Of Self” cluster and the “Relationship” cluster.In the ‘Hedonistic’ cluster, in which the addict says, ‘To hell with it, I’ll do what I want’, the closely associated substances are alcohol, recreational drugs, mood-altering prescription drugs (pain-killers, sleeping tablets, anti-depressants and tranquillisers), nicotine and caffeine.In that same ‘Hedonistic’ cluster are the addictive behaviours of sex and love addiction and gambling and risk-taking.If someone is addicted to any one of these substances or behaviours, it is worth looking for all the others. Any untreated addictive outlet will be likely to lead to relapse.In the ‘Nurturant of self’ cluster surrounding the eating disorders – anorexia, bulimia and compulsive over-eating – the substances that lead to cravings are the refined carbohydrates, sugar and white flour. In addition to bingeing, vomiting, starving or purging, the commonly associated addictive behaviours are shopping and spending, work and exercise.The ‘Relationship’ cluster comprises just two addictive behaviours – compulsive helping (using oneself as a drug for other people by doing too much for them and not enough to protect oneself) and relationship addiction (using other people as if they were drugs).Some people have addictive outlets in just one of these clusters, some in two and some in all three.It is possible that each of these addictive clusters is governed by a single gene. For that reason, it is sensible to be abstinent from all substances and behaviours within any addictive cluster in which one outlet is problematic. For example, The Betty Ford Clinic showed that cigarette smokers have double the relapse rate of non-smokers in relapsing back to using alcohol or recreational drugs.There is no point in giving up one or two addictive substances and behaviours while leaving the others unchecked. They will simply take over the addictive urge.Sex and love addiction has a high suicide rate because it tends to destroy families and other close relationships and lead to pathetic loneliness.Gambling and risk-taking includes ‘betting’ (that’s what it is) on stocks and shares and other investments, commodities, property ventures and other business risks. These may be part of normal life but compulsive people do not know when we are doing too much of a good thing – and we can’t stop even when we do.Work includes hobbies and interests, cults or sects and also internet addiction. Collecting can become obsessive. Religious preoccupation or extremism can lead to suffering on an individual, national or international scale. What is made out to be beneficial, in this life or the next, can lead to utter carnage.In each case, a behavioural addiction can undermine recovery from the associated substance addictions, as well as being damaging in its own right. For example, caffeine itself is rarely damaging but high quantities of cola or other caffeine drinks can stimulate the urge to use other drugs.Gambling and risk-taking can destroy families every bit as much as cocaine or heroin addiction.Nicotine addiction is very common among alcoholics or drug addicts and is also common in compulsive gamblers. It may not kill them in the short term but it often gets them in the end and causes devastating suffering.A bit of retail therapy is comforting for almost anybody but compulsive shopping and spending, buying things we don’t even want or need or throwing money away in crazy flamboyance, is very distressing – and cripplingly expensive.Working and exercising are sometimes thought to be ‘positive’ addictions. That is very far from the truth. They can both be highly damaging. There is no such thing as a ‘positive’ addiction. All truly addictive behaviour is progressive and destructive.Compulsive helping has nothing in common with friendly helping. It patronises and belittles. It takes caring into care-taking, doing so much for other people that they don’t learn to be responsible for themselves. The self-denial of compulsive helping can cause fearful damage when it leads to taking huge risks when providing employment or services for the intended benefit of self and others.Not all people in the helping professions are compulsive helpers but those who are can cause a lot of trouble and distress. When politicians are compulsive helpers the national or global economy, and the safety of the whole world, can be at stake. They don’t know when to leave well alone.Relationship addiction can take away all genuine pleasure from marriage, or other partnerships, when the single-minded purpose is satisfaction for one person at the expense of another.All in all, addictive behaviours can destroy individuals, relationships, businesses, financial fortunes and even whole communities. We ignore them at our peril.