The term ‘addiction’ carries different meanings for different people, but can be defined as the repeated involvement or participation with a particular substance or activity, motivated by temporary reward. It can lead to a dependency on the activity or substance, despite the substantial harm it causes.
Addiction sufferers are not alone, with one in three people addicted to a substance or activity. While addiction is most commonly associated with gambling, drugs, alcohol or smoking, it is possible to be addicted to almost anything, including work; shopping; even the internet and social media. Many find it difficult to establish when an activity goes beyond simple enjoyment and becomes a consuming addiction.
What Triggers an Addiction?
There are many reasons an addiction may begin, though, in most cases, it is triggered by a temporary ‘high’ achieved by engaging in an activity or taking a substance. This creates a powerful urge to recreate the high, which, often, is accompanied by withdrawal symptoms. In the case of a gambling addiction, a mental high will be felt after a win, followed by a craving to recreate the high by winning again.
Addictions can cause not only physical damage, but also psychological damage. The strain of managing an addiction can have a very real impact, causing damage to relationships with friends and family, and impacting work and general quality of life. This often makes the desire to escape — or for a release — achieved by engaging in compulsive behaviours, even stronger.
When Does a Habit or Activity Become an Addiction?
Minor cravings and habits can quickly turn into addictions and there are extensive factors that contribute to the development of an addiction. Symptoms of an addiction can include the inability to abstain from the behaviour; irrational emotional responses when the user is not able to engage in the behaviour; a change in personal behaviour; reliance on a substance or activity; or even physical evidence, such as weight loss, weight gain and flushed skin.
What Treatment Methods Are Available for Addiction?
All addictions are treatable. Treatment does more than simply remove the harmful substance or activity — which is why many ‘cold turkey’ attempts fail — it helps patients acknowledge destructive thought processes and behaviours, and focuses on reducing the desire to engage in such behaviours and changing lifestyles to prevent relapsing into the cycle of addiction. Addiction treatment is generally broken down into three stages:
Detoxification or stabilisation: Detoxification and stabilisation are the essential first steps to recovery. A detox from the addictive activity or substance serves to reduce any further or immediate psychological or physical damage, but it can also prompt an individual to realise that they have an addiction and need help. However, detoxifying alone can be potentially dangerous and can results in extremely unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Residential care, alongside medical supervision, is clinically proven to be the safest and most effective option to end dependency on an addictive substance or activity.
Rehabilitation: This is designed to reduce dependency and rehabilitate the individual user, so that they can enjoy a normal life. During this stage, the causes and triggers of the addiction will be identified. We provide a bespoke rehabilitation programme for all of our patients, alongside a tailored treatment plan, designed to suit an individual’s unique needs. Rehabilitation programmes can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on a patient’s specific requirements and condition.
Continuing care: Recovery is a long road and, to reduce the chances of relapse, it is vital to ensure proper aftercare. Recovery requires lifestyle changes around the addiction — for example, a person addicted to alcohol will never be able to drink socially again. Continuing care may involve changing daily habits or even the people and places the user associates themselves with. We are always here to aid a smooth recovery, even after rehabilitation.