Am I an Addict?
John was infamous for how many beers he could drink without experiencing any apparent effects. He spent several nights each week at the bar and his friends had seen him drunk several times recently. He was also just arrested for a DUI.
Katherine always loved Bingo games. No one really thought much about it until a family member discovered her children home alone one evening while Katherine was out at the casino.
Addiction Counseling: Definitions and Key Thoughts
Addiction involves having a dependence on a substance (i.e., alcohol, marijuana, prescription or nonprescription drugs) or an activity (i.e., shopping, gambling). It can be either a physical (as in the case of most drugs) or psychological (as in the case of most activities) compulsion to use the substance or activity as a way to cope with everyday life.
Addiction is a habitual behavior that is extremely difficult to control and leads to activities that are designed solely to continue or cover up the addiction itself—alcoholics hiding bottles around their homes, drug addicts embezzling to support their habit. In line with the defense mechanism of denial, addicts often blame their problems upon various factors in their lives—a difficult boss, an unsupportive spouse, or persuasive friends—rather than taking responsibility for their own actions.
Drug addictions consist of a biochemical dependence on a substance in order to create a desired effect or high. Due to a biochemical process called tolerance, over time the body needs ever-increasing amounts of the substance in order to produce this high and to ward off any symptoms of withdrawal. Ongoing drug use can lead to actual changes in body chemistry to the point that the body begins to require the drug.
*Non-drug addictions include compulsive spending, smoking, sexual addictions, gambling, and compulsive overeating.*
Many addictions begin by simple experimentations — going to a casino or trying a drug. When a person enjoys the experience, they continue doing it. Eventually, when a person becomes dependent on something and requires it in order to avoid experiencing symptoms of withdrawal, they have begun abusing it.
Although a majority of addicts assert their ability to stop using a substance at any point in time, most addicts have very little to no control over their substance use. Such substance abuse is often in order to cover up several different underlying emotional problems including depression, chronic illness, bipolar disorder, or hyperactivity. Key characteristics of addiction include…
- Patterns of uncontrollable behaviors or substance use for a year or more
- Increasing patterns of behavior or substance use over time
- Mood swings
- Feelings of self-worthlessness or shame
- Impulse control problems—with food, drugs, sex, or money
- Strong needs to be liked or approved of
- Behaviors or substance use to reduce anxiety
- Obsessions over a behavior or substance
- Guilt and shame
- Negative consequences to self or others
- Failure to control
Action Steps for Overcoming Addiction
Safety is often a key issue for the loved ones of an addict. If an addict has small children or may potentially drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, immediate steps must be taken in order to protect the addict from harming themselves or others. Loved ones must turn down any rides from the addict or seek help if the addict is unable to supervise their children.
In the event that physical or sexual abuse occurs while the addict is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, loved ones must remove themselves from the situation immediately. In the event that verbal abuse occurs while the addict is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, loved ones should also seek either counseling help or join a support group for those facing the same type of abuse.
In helping a person to overcome an addiction it is important to take the following actions:
- Make it clear that discontinuing usage is for the good of the addict and others, and that continuing usage will have life-long repercussions.
- Encourage the addict to get a thorough medical checkup in order to rule out any medical problems that could be caused by the use of drugs or alcohol.
- Encourage the addict to see a professional in chemical dependency to assess their substance use and to confirm that it is an addiction. Such assessments are available at some hospitals, community abuse centers, and community mental health agencies.
Treatment from a doctor is highly recommended because an addiction is a powerful dependency that can have very severe withdrawal symptoms. If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction, contact Thrive Boston Counseling today. We often schedule a new client appointment within 24 hours of their call. We also work with many insurance companies.
Bonus: Tips to Prevent Drunk Driving
According to MADD, a person is injured in a drunk driving accident every 120 seconds. Moreover, studies show that 50-75 percent of persons with a suspended or revoked license, due to a DUI, drive anyway. You can help prevent drunk driving. Here are some tips.
One: Take the Keys Early
If you are hosting guests, serving alcohol, or are in a situation where you suspect that someone you know will likely drive under the influence of alcohol, attempt to take the person’s car keys. Often, this is most easily done before anyone begins drinking. Create some social pressure by asking everyone to forfeit their keys, even if there is only one person who is likely to drink and drive.
Two: Provide Proof
This is an age-old debate–is someone okay to drive? Well, it has never been easier than now to determine a person’s blood-alcohol level. Today, anyone can purchase a low cost alcohol breath-meter that will sync with an iPhone or smart phone. Having someone take a breath test might not always end an argument about whether they are okay to drive, but it will certainly give you confidence if you need to resort to tip #3.
Three: Do not Allow the User to Drive
There is a saying “sweep your side of the street,” and another “you can’t control others.” However, in the case when someone is getting ready to drive under the influence of alcohol, you need to try. If possible, take the keys. If you are physically unable to do so, let the person know what you will be calling the police. Let the person know, you are doing this for their own safety and the safety of anyone else out driving.