Addiction ED’s purpose is to inform readers concerning the clinical aspects of various types of symptomatic behavior of more common addictions. This is not meant to replace the educational component of addiction care and treatment, but rather to provide information from various experts on each subject presented.
The following are the Addiction ED menu categories:
- Disease Debate: Is Addiction a Disease?
- Role of Family & Genetics
- Withdrawal and Post-Acute Withdrawal (PAWS)
- Alcohol and Drug Addiction
- Other Addictive Behaviors
- Less Obvious Addictions
A skeleton walked into the bar and said to the bartender, “I’ll have a beer and a mop.”
The Definition of Addiction
A substance addiction meets two criteria:
- You have difficulty controlling how much you use or how long you use. For example, one drink leads to more drinks, or one line of cocaine leads to more.
- You continue to use even though it has negative consequences to your life. For example, you continue to drink even though it has hurt your relationships, or have suffered financially, or your health has suffered.
Those two criteria define all addictions. They are true for alcohol and drug addiction, but they’re also true for gambling addiction, eating disorders, and sexual addiction.
There are different stages of addictions. The late stage is the non-functioning addict. They’ve lost their job and have to use every day. It’s what people think addiction is like, but that stereotype is rare.
The early stage is the functioning addict. They still have a job and their relationships are intact, but their life is suffering because of their addiction. That is the most common scenario. You don’t have to suffer major losses to have an addiction.
The consequences of addiction get worse over time. Addiction is a progressive disease. It’s never easy to quit. But if you’ve already suffered negative consequences and don’t want them to get worse, there’s never a better time to quit than now.
- Tolerance. Has your use of drugs or alcohol increased over time?
- Withdrawal. When you stop using, have you ever experienced physical or emotional withdrawal? Have you had any of the following symptoms: irritability, anxiety, shakes, sweats, nausea, or vomiting?
- Difficulty controlling your use. Do you sometimes use more or for a longer time than you would like? Do you sometimes drink to get drunk? Do you stop after a few drink usually, or does one drink lead to more drinks?
- Negative consequences. Have you continued to use even though there have been negative consequences to your mood, self-esteem, health, job, or family?
- Neglecting or postponing activities. Have you ever put off or reduced social, recreational, work, or household activities because of your use?
- Spending significant time or emotional energy. Have you spent a significant amount of time obtaining, using, concealing, planning, or recovering from your use? Have you spend a lot of time thinking about using? Have you ever concealed or minimized your use? Have you ever thought of schemes to avoid getting caught?
- Desire to cut down. Have you sometimes thought about cutting down or controlling your use? Have you ever made unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control your use?
If you answered yes to at least 3 of these questions, then you meet the medical definition of addiction. This definition is based on the of American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV) and the World Health Organization (ICD-10) criteria.(1)
Look at the self-test questionnaire page to see if you have an addiction.
The terms alcohol addiction, alcoholism, and alcohol dependence all mean the same thing. No one term is more serious than the other. Different terms have evolved over the years to overcome the negative stigma of addiction, and to make it easier for people to reach out and ask for help. The same is true for the terms drug addiction and drug dependence. (Reference: www.AddictionsAndRecovery.org)
How Common is Drug and Alcohol Addiction?
Approximately 10% of any population is addicted to drugs or alcohol. Addiction crosses all socio-economic boundaries. 10% of teachers, 10% of plumbers, and 10% of CEOs have an addiction.
Addiction is more common than diabetes, which occurs in approximately 7% of the population.
The Definition of Substance Abuse
Some people aren’t addicted to drugs or alcohol, but abuse them. The American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV) definition of substance abuse is at least one of the following four criteria.
- Continued use despite social or interpersonal problems.
- Repeated use resulting in failure to fulfill obligations at work, school, or home.
- Repeated use resulting in physically hazardous situations.
- Use resulting in legal problems.
The Consequences of Addiction
People only stop using when they’ve suffered enough negative consequences. When you’ve suffered enough pain and enough regret you’ll be ready to stop. After all, why stop before that? Addiction feels good.
You’re ready to stop your addiction when the two competing qualities of addiction collide. On the one hand, addiction feels good which makes you want to use more. On the other hand, addiction feels so good that you’re willing to sacrifice part of your life to have more, and you’re willing to experience pain in order to continue using. After awhile something has got to give.
The purpose of websites like this is to show you the potential negative consequences of addiction so that you make the move to quit before you’ve lost everything. You don’t have to hit rock bottom. You can try to imagine what it would be like to hit rock bottom. And then that can be enough to motivate you.
The most important consequences of addiction are social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. People usually think of the physical and economic consequences of addiction. “I don’t have a serious addiction because my health is fine, and I haven’t lost my job.” But your body usually repairs itself quickly. The health consequences of addiction are often the least important.
As far as work is concerned that’s usually the last thing to suffer. You need your work to pay your bills, so that you can continue to use. When your work begins to suffer, you’ve slipped from being a functioning addict to a non-functioning addict.
The damage addiction does to your relationships and self-esteem takes longer to repair. You’ve hurt friends and family. You’ve disappointed yourself. You’ve traded important things in your life so that you could make more time to use. You’ve lived a double life—a lie. You’ve seen the hurt in your family’s eyes, and the disappointment in your children’s faces. Spiritually, you have in some way turned away from God and the core values that have made so much sense to you in the past.
Use this opportunity to examine the patterns of addiction that have led to your struggle. Take the time to recognize that addiction is controlling you but that it doesn’t have to. There is a power at work in the world with the authority to rearrange the processes of your brain and central nervous system because He loves you enough to complete transform your life. It is within your power and control to choose to let Him. Simply open the new door He has provided to you walk through into the new life experience.
The Cost of Addiction
When you look at the dollars and cents cost of addiction, the figures are mind boggling.
At least twice as many people die from alcoholism in the US every year as die from motor vehicle accidents.(2)
Alcohol intoxication is associated with 40-50% of traffic fatalities, 25-35% of nonfatal motor vehicle injuries, and 64% of fires. Alcohol is present in nearly 50% of homicides, either in the victim or the perpetrator.(3)
Alcohol intoxication is involved in 31% of fatal injuries, and 23% of completed suicides.(4)
One study found that 86 % of homicide offenders, 37 % of assault offenders, and 57 % of men and 27 % of women involved in marital violence were drinking at the time of their offense.(5)