Addictive Behaviour & Substance Abuse
Whilst I have written this piece primarily on substance abuse, it is important to note that addition, and addictive behaviour isn’t confined to substances alone, a general feature of addicted behaviour is the short term view of the gain that can be experience from an activity. An example of this in relation to a non-addictive substance could be an addiction to exercise, whilst a healthy desire in an overweight individual to reduce weight, if this becomes an addition as addiction progresses and the want becomes a need, dependency can turn into chaos as the need for exercise means social, family and possibly work commitments are forgotten in the attempt to get a new high from exercise, long after the initial goal of weight loss has been achieved. This same craving over all other needs can occur for other activities such as gambling, excessive working and sex etc. It is important to note that sexual addition goes beyond normal sexual cravings and urges and the sex can become more important than any other practical and moral issues.
Addition of substances is associated with two effects upon the mind and body. Addictive substances include alcohol, nicotine, illegal substances (uppers downers heroin cannabis etc.) and abused prescription drugs such as sleeping pills and pain killers and recreational use of anti-depressants. With substance abuse or misuse (Intoxication – which is why the substance may be taken) may relieve the physical or psychological symptoms from which the user is trying to escape. However in doing so the user enters a stage that affects judgement and perception.
Following this stage is withdrawal if the substance has ceased to be taken or intake of the substance has decreased dramatically. This stage can include many varied symptoms, the most common being irritability, anxiety, cramps and tremors.Typically increased usage of a substance leads to a greater tolerance level, leading the user to increase the dose to get the same level of intoxication (high).Over time this leads to compulsive use and depending on the substance becomes a physical or psychological addiction. “Clinical relevance to the distinction between physical and psychological dependence is insignificant. For example cocaine and metamphetamine use results in little or no physical dependence, but they are two of the most highly addictive substances. (Johnson, S.L. 2003:41%)
Eventually this addiction can become more important than any other aspect of the users life in. The ‘DSM IV’ (a diagnostic criteria used by psychologists and other health professionals) sets the criteria to diagnosing substance abuse classify this addiction as: “a recurrent substance use resulting in a failure to fulfil responsibilities associated with work, school and home” (Johnson, S.L. 2003:41%). This book continues to classify other substance abuse criteria which includes, if the substance has led to involvement in crime interfered with personal relationships or put the user at personal risk.
Treatment of addiction through counselling can vary, many modalities can be used CBT is commonly adopted to explore patterns and thought processes and try to stop these following on into substance misuse. Other therapies such as person centred techniques can be used to work back to address the possible causes of anxiety and depression that many substance misuses suffer and which is my many seen as a reason for use.. I use these along with motivational interviewing techniques, relational counselling as well as using art in the sessions to explore thoughts and feelings, as well as exploring ways of regulating the emotions in other ways.
References. Johnson, S.L. (2003) Therapists guide to Substance Abuse Intervention, Academic Press distributed via Amazon Kindle.