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General Information

Systems Affected - Psychic-emotional, Brain and Nervous.
Specialists - Psychiatrists and Psychologists.

Symptoms:

bulletTypically involves both psychological and physiological dependence.
bulletA compulsion to use a substance or a compelling need to engage in a particular activity, often without deriving pleasure or gain from it.
bulletFeelings of guilt about an activity or use of a substance.
bulletDesire to continue when friends or family recommend you stop.
bulletIrritation when confronted with these recommendations.
bulletContinued participation or use despite obvious negative effects of such activity or use.
bulletRegret as a result of things that have been done or said.
bulletInability to meet the demands of a steady job.
bulletFinancial problems as a result of the activity or use of the substance.

This is only a partial list, highlighting the major symptoms for the purpose of recognition of a problem.

How it all works:

    Typically  addiction involves both psychological and physiological dependence, but not in all cases. This is marked by the compulsion to use a substance or participate in a particular activity that we know to be detrimental to ourselves. Physiological dependence is the result of the way our bodies respond to the introduction of an addictive substance and it can be characterized by both tolerance and withdrawal. There are three factors that relate to tolerance and we will address them in order.

Tolerance:

    Environmental and behavioral conditioning, in the simplest of terms, is how we learn a particular behavior or activity. Associating the desired effects of a substance or activity with the surroundings (i.e. a bar or party), or our emotional state at the time (i.e. loneliness or depression). This is important because in different environments or mental states, our tolerance can be greatly affected, and repeated use in a particular state will build a tolerance, requiring a greater dose to achieve the desired results.
    Pharmacokinetics refers to the way in which our bodies process a substance. Basically, a substance is introduced to the bloodstream, distributed to our organs, metabolized by these organs, and finally eliminated from our bodies. Over time the distribution and metabolizing of the substance changes, and our bodies eliminate the substance more efficiently. This results in reducing the desired effects, requiring a stronger dose to achieve the desired effects.
    Pharmacodynamics refers to the changes in the body as the result of a pharmacologic agent (drug) being present. In short, a decreased sensitivity occurs at specific sites within the brain, impacting the primary action of those sites. Changes also occur in systems that oppose the action of the drug. Systems that oppose the action of the drug compensate by increasing their effect. This results in the need to increase the dose to reach the desired effect again.

Withdrawal:

    Withdrawal can occur when use of a substance is dramatically decreased or ceased altogether. The effects or symptoms of withdrawal will vary widely, dependent on the drug used and the amount or degree of abuse. Some drugs seem to produce no withdrawal effects at all. Mild withdrawal symptoms can include, anxiety, impaired attention, insomnia, irritability, restlessness, and tension. Sever withdrawal symptoms include, convulsions, high blood pressure, irregular tremors, perceptual distortion, and rapid heartbeat. To compound the problem of addiction, alleviation of the symptoms can be achieved by reintroduction of the abused substance. This is a practice that is quickly learned by the addicted individual in an effort to simply feel better. This is also primary reason for perpetuation of the cycle of abuse.

Treatment:

    In order  to overcome most all addictions, effective treatment is paramount. Because of the psychological factors involved, psychological treatment is highly recommended and almost always necessary. This treatment focuses on eliminating the psychological dependence on the drug or action in question. Introducing how the addictive behavior developed, how it was maintained, and most importantly, how it can be removed from the daily life of the individual, are all key to the success of the program. Many programs are group oriented, but individual and family oriented programs are also beneficial, and combinations of these programs prove to be very successful. The twelve step program developed by alcoholics anonymous has also proven very successful. You can find a link to the twelve steps and traditions of AA at the bottom of this page.
    Pharmacological treatment involves introduction of a drug or combinations of drugs, primarily to produce a "normal" psychological state so the individual will be more receptive to the psychological treatment.
    One of the most important factors in successful treatment, is the subjects desire and willingness to change. This can not be discounted. Many people involved in treatment today are there because of a desire to change.

Who becomes addicted:

    This is easy and also very important. EVERYONE is susceptible to addiction. Addiction is evident in every: Gender,  Ethnic Origin, Religion, Occupation, Social Class, and Age Group. No one is immune from addiction.

 

[ AA's Twelve Steps and Traditions ]

 

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