On why addiction is largely a state of the mind so addicts are more addicted to their addiction, the temporary feeling of pleasure, rather than the drugs…
Addiction is primarily psychological although addiction is defined according to the physiological changes in the body, and addiction continues to be considered as a social, cultural, genetic and experiential process as well. Addictive behavior could be explained as any behavior that gives temporary or short term pleasure and also provides relief from discomfort although there may be long term adverse effects.
Addiction is generally described as dependence on any drug and results from substance abuse. Any drug or alcohol can produce addiction as can other things such as the internet, gaming, gadgets, chocolates etc. However the physical and psychological effects of drugs and alcohol are detrimental and actually result in loss of productivity, withdrawal and physical dependence and lack of attention and such other conditions. The primary feature of addiction is dependence as an individual shows increased psychological and physiological dependence on the substance he is addicted to and without the addictive substance the person is unable to return to normal life.
Dependence on anything may not be too bad and some amount of social dependence is expected of us as social beings.
In fact there is a sort of fixation of want, and an obsession with the object of want so an addict repeatedly thinks about this want and convinces himself that without the addictive substance he will not be able to survive. When love becomes an addiction, it can lead to suicide or fatal consequences when the object of desire is not attained.Addicts are thus obsessed and largely depressed individuals who sometimes use the obsession against the depression or to overcome the depression.
They are socially withdrawn although they may apparently have a huge circle of friends with whom they may not be able to relate at all levels. Addicts are also susceptible to suggestion and they are vulnerable to opinions of other people. Strange that it may sound, it is easy to mold or change addicts and also easy to hypnotize them as they are very impressionable and easily affected by what people and society have to say about them. This weakness of addicts is also their strength as both negative and positive influences can act equally well on addicts and the right guidance would be necessary to show them what is good for them and what is bad.
How is addiction controlled and stopped?
Stopping or overcoming any addiction could be a challenge but as addicts are changeable and affected easily, it may be relatively easy to bring them back to normal life provided they have the right type of guidance and counselling.
One of the strategies that could be used to cure addictive behavior would be ‘diversion’, providing alternative substances/activities or shifting their attention or interest into something other than the addictive substance or object. As a TV addict could be encouraged to develop more constructive habits of reading for instance.
‘Substitution’ would be another method and a person addicted to alcohol could be encouraged to take a drink that tastes like wine but does not contain alcohol.
‘Eradication’ or complete unavailability of the addictive substance or object can gradually lead to forgetting the pleasure giving substance and interests in other activities. The complete unavailability of a drug, even a sleeping pill can lead to lessening of addiction for that drug and help the addict to develop other interests, although this should not be done abruptly as physiological and psychological symptoms of withdrawal may result. So if someone is addicted to a specific medicine or pill, the doses could be slowly reduced before completely stopping intake of the drug.
Finally ‘suggestion’ or counselling to change behavior highlighting the bad effects of a drug or an obsessive activity could be effective at a later stage after withdrawal from the drug or activity has been attempted as when in need of any substance, addicts lose all sense of reality and may not even want to listen to advice. So, only when their dependence reduces to an extent with the help of the other methods of substitution, eradication or diversion, counselling could help them to show more reasonable and socially responsible behavior and prevent further conditions of relapse.
Reflections in Psychology – Part I – by Saberi Roy (2009)
Saberi Roy – Books
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