There is nothing simple about addiction. It is a complicated problem unique to each addict. The causes of addiction are complex: addictions are not generally brought on by one cause, but are due to many contributing factors. Most individuals with addiction problems will have their own explanation for why they have become addicted though sometimes the cause is never known or understood.
Addiction is widespread throughout most communities of the world. It occurs at all levels of society. Despite this, there is a great deal of misunderstanding about addiction.
The concept of addiction as a psychological problem is a relatively new one. People once saw addiction as a personality flaw or a sign of weakness. This stigma still persists in society today and is a major challenge for addicts and the people who treat them. The origins of addiction are now believed to be much more complicated - psychological, physiological and even genetic.
The most common addiction is alcohol dependence. Other addictions commonly presented in therapy involve:
- drugs (cocaine, cannabis, methamphetamine, heroin, etc.)
- prescription medication
- the internet
Addictions can bring about both psychological dependence (a person comes to believe that they need a substance or behaviour) and physical dependence (where chronic use of a drug has produced tolerance and where negative physical withdrawal symptoms will result from discontinuing the addictive substance). Both types of addictions are treatable.
Generally, men are more likely to develop addiction problems than women.
Addictions hurt everyone involved and can have far-reaching devastating consequences. The addicted person may be in total denial, feeling that he or she doesn't have a problem. Or the addict may feel completely helpless, as if the addictive behaviour is beyond his control. Addicts often lose touch with reality and their relationships in life crumble. Addiction can feel like a black hole, consuming the life of the addict and the lives of those who care for him.