Addiction takes a variety of forms. It can be a chemical substance such as alcohol or cocaine or a behavioural addiction such as gaming, sex or gambling. People battling with addiction generally have a genetic vulnerability related to dopamine (reward) pathways. Substances or certain behaviours frequently become a way of dealing with life stressors and often start out slowly. You may, however, start to develop tolerance to the substance or behaviour and then requires more and more to have the same effect. Frequently, without realizing it, the use becomes increased in frequency and amount which starts to have negative effects on the individuals physical and mental health, finances, work and relationships. If you are suffering from active addiction you may lose perspective on the extent of the damage caused and your primary focus remains on engaging and obtaining the ‘high’.
Addiction may be purely related to this reward pathway or may frequently be a ‘negative coping mechanism’ to deal with stress/ trauma/ grief or an underlying condition such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder. With the treatment of addiction, it is essential to have a formal psychiatric assessment in order to assess the extent of the problem and to identify as well as treat any underlying condition. If the addiction is severe, a short-term detoxification and three week admission may be required to ‘kick-start’ the process and remove all temptation during the initial phase. The focus of treatment is to manage underlying conditions, work through previous life stressors/ trauma, acknowledge and attempt to repair the damages that the illness has caused and to establish more ‘positive coping mechanisms’ going forward. It is encouraged that the individual joins a support group and seek a sponsor to help guide them to move forward into a sober world.