About Addiction

Since the 1990’s the rate of addiction has risen dramatically in North America. In addition to an already high rate of alcohol and drug addiction, other addictions have risen sharply. Specifically, sexual addictions, gambling addictions and food addictions have become serious societal problems.

Basic Definition of Addiction

  • A person needs more of a substance or behaviour to keep him or her going
  • If a person does not get more of the substance or behaviour, she or he becomes increasingly stressed and miserable

10 Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

  1. Family and friends have noticed the addictive behaviour
  2. Trying to concealing addictive behaviour from family and friends
  3. Using the addiction to cope with stress and anxiety
  4. Relationships, environment and thoughts center around the addiction
  5. A history of addiction in the family
  6. Tried to quit the addiction
  7. The addiction has caused job, financial or health problems
  8. The addicted person denies the addiction or believes they are not an addict because their addiction is legal
  9. The addiction is causing problems with family and friends
  10. A more chaotic life – unpaid bills, accidents, trouble with concentration or memory, feeling out of control

People who answer yes to 3 or more of these signs should seriously consider whether they have an addiction that requires treatment.

Behavioural Patterns Associated With Addiction

Addiction problems are often associated with behavioural patterns and emotional conditions. Some of these are:

  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Stress
  • Difficulties in dealing with people or isolation
  • Unresolved grief or trauma

Addiction Models

A variety of addiction models exist that provide an understanding of the causes and possible cures for addiction. They affect how people will view addiction and how a particular group of people will respond to it.

Moral Model – Believes that addicts are people who lack strength and an adequate maturity and will power.

Disease Model – Believes that addictions are a disease caused by neurochemical impairment

Genetic Model – Sees addiction as an inherited condition

Cultural Model – Says that addictions are promoted or prevented by a particular culture. For example, gambling addiction is currently promoted by the North American culture

Psychological Model – Takes the perspective that addiction originates from incidents in a person’s life that have formed their personality.

Blended Model – Considers all the models. It holds that dependency is different for different individuals

Treatment Options

There are a number of treatment options available for people who have addiction problems. Some of these are:

Self Help/Mutual Support Groups – These are groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous that provide a structured program of recovery. A strong component of these groups is  the solidarity and self-help of the members

Hospital Programs – Are medical treatment programs that provide assessment, counselling and other options related to addiction assistance.

Recovery Homes – These are places where a person can live for a period of time and receive treatment services with other addicted individuals

Treatment Centres – These are full service institutions geared to the needs of people suffering from a wide range of addictions.

Counselling – Counselling addresses the personal issues that led to the addiction. It also helps the person to cognitively and behaviourally take a different direction in their life in order to deal with the addiction.

My Treatment Approach

Assessment – I start with the premise that every person is different and requires his or her own method of treatment. I look at 2 key areas in my assessment:

1/ Identifying the stage of change – This refers to the person’s readiness to confront her or his addiction. A person may be in denial, considering change, taking action, in the midst of a program or undergoing a relapse.

2/ Identifying the resources – I look at the supports, such as recovery groups or family and friends, that a person has. I also look at their personal resources in terms of their motivation, self-development and self-understanding.

Treatment Interventions – Depending upon my assessment I use a variety of counselling interventions in order to help the client.

1/ Mindfulness – Through mindfulness or learning to be aware of their mental, physical and emotional states, a person can gain a valuable self-awareness.

2/ Cognitive Restructuring – This enables the person to examine his or her thoughts in order be able to understand and modify them.

3/ Behavioural – The person and I examine behaviours that support the addiction and we look at ones that can produce positive change.

4/ Developmental – Looks at all the events that led up to the addiction. These include family history, relationships, traumas and milestones.

Treatment Goals – Addictions affect most areas of a person’s life. Depending upon the person and his or her situation I aim for certain goals to be attained in treatment.

1/ Harm Reduction – An immediate goal of treatment is to help the person to reduce the harm that they are doing to themselves. We set goals, plan strategies and monitor behaviour change.

2/ Alternative Behaviours and Lifestyle – Since an addiction can dominate a person’s life and his or her options, it is important to help her or him develop a different lifestyle. We do this to provide a positive alternative to the addiction and to utilize their resources in an empowering manner.

3/ Controlling the Addiction – This is done in stages throughout the treatment. Here it depends upon the person’s needs and capacities. Some people require immediate abstinence and others, gradual. The goal is that the person can have control of their addiction in manner that does not require ‘white-knuckling’. The type of control I aim for is geared to flexible options in life and rests upon a strong sense of self.

A Word About Motivation

Personal change of any kind requires motivation. However, in my experience, dealing with addictions requires a great deal of motivation. Very often family and  friends are motivated, but the addict is not. When the addict is motivated and ready to make change, then the addiction can be successfully dealt with.