What is Addiction

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If you ask anyone what an addiction is, they'll probably say it's being unable to stop using a substance, for example an illegal drug such as heroin, or maybe legal substances such as alcohol.

Did you know around four million people use illicit drugs each year in England and Wales, and it’s estimated that more than 280,000 have problems because of their drug use?

Perhaps the best example is cigarette smoking. Anyone who has ever smoked will recognise the strong sense of compulsion to light up, particularly in situations where this is not allowed, such as in an plane, restaurant or pub.

These aspects of addiction have a physiological basis related to how the substance acts on the brain (in the case of cigarettes, it’s the effects of nicotine that the person craves) and a psychological aspect relating to the reasons for taking the substance (such as smoking to improve concentration or be part of a social group).

More recently, we have come to realize that people can also develop addictions to behaviors, such as gambling, and even quite ordinary and necessary activities such as exercise and eating. What these activities have in common is that the person doing them finds them pleasurable in some way.

There is some controversy about which of the “behavioral” addictions constitute scientifically validated “true” addictions, with both professionals and the public failing to reach an agreement. More research is needed to clarify this issue.

 

So if you can be addicted to anything, what makes it an addiction?


Although the precise symptoms vary from one addiction to another, in clarifying what is an addiction, there are two aspects that all addictions have in common.

Firstly, the addictive behavior is maladaptive or counter-productive to the individual. So instead of helping the person adapt to situations or overcome problems, it tends to undermine these abilities.

For example, a gambler might wish he had more money – yet gambling is more likely to drain his financial resources. A heavy drinker might want to cheer herself up – yet alcohol use contributes to the development of her depression. A sex addict may crave intimacy – yet the focus on sexual acts may prevent real closeness from developing.

Secondly, the behavior is persistent. When someone is addicted, they will continue to engage in the addictive behavior, despite it causing them trouble.

So an occasional weekend of self-indulgence is not addiction, although it may cause different kinds of problems. Addiction involves more frequent engagement in the behaviour.


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The Have I Got A Problem website is a free online resource to help people better understand any issues or concerns they may have about mental health or addiction. The website includes resources specifically focused to; general Mental Health, Depression, Stress, Anxiety, Insecurities, Self-harm Schizophrenia, Bipolar, Anger Management, Eating Disorders, Coping, general Addiction, Alcohol, Smoking, Gambling, Drugs, Cocaine, Heroin, Marijuana (Cannabis) Ecstasy, PCP, Mephedrone, Ketamine & Crystal Meth.

The site was created to give the public information to help them understand mental health and addiction issues and to assist people in making better informed decisions about their life and personal choices.

www.haveigotaproblem.com was created and is run by the Tasha Foundation, a UK registered charity (charity number1062805).

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