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Part 1: What is Addiction?

Addiction (or substance dependence) as defined by the American Psychiatric Association is a maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress. Addicts’ symptoms eventually surrender them to their environment without sufficient support. Addiction is like a side effect because the substance itself was serving a purpose: a relief, an escape, or even a path to bonding with others.

Addiction often creeps up slowly, often without the individual realizing the problem until it wreaks its irreversible damage. In the beginning, daily life functioning becomes more challenging to maintain. In cases of addiction with substance or drugs, people build up tolerance and begin to take more (in cases of prescribed medication, people begin to abuse them) to get the same effect. Tolerance often results in a loss of control, compulsivity, dependence, and even illness – psychological and/or physical. Additionally, the addict’s social life suffers greatly due to the behaviors required to satisfy their cravings.

Unfortunately, when behaviors begin to create negative consequences, it has already gone too far. Negative consequences from addiction are revealed in many forms. When an individual becomes addicted they may experience cravings, which can be intolerable for some, rendering them unable to disengage from their addictive behaviors. Similarly, when a person has been addicted to a substance or drug and they try to stop using, withdrawals from the substance or drug can be crippling, even life threatening. Addiction grips a person on both physiological and psychological levels.

When thinking about choices, we can agree that as a whole everyone makes their own choices in life regarding solving problems. On the other hand, on the individual level it is not so simple; the variety or availability of choices and access to these alternatives are not the same for all. It is important to recognize that an individual is only as strong as one’s environment will allow them to be.

All human beings desire contentment and balance. When that balance is interrupted in our biological, psychological, emotional selves, we all begin the search for a solution to restore the harmony that has been disturbed. While some certainly turn to drugs with little thought to how they can ruin their lives, most innocently hope for a quick fix for their intolerable symptoms.

If you or someone you know suffers with an addiction, Park Ridge Psychological Services is standing by to help you right where you are in your process. If you would like to schedule an appointment with our substance abuse counselor Emily Gilliam, 847-692-6692 Ext. 12, she is here for you.

For more information:

http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ajp.2013.12060782