Addiction to various substances, such as alcohol or illegal drugs are common mental disorders. Prevention and early intervention are important.
A harmful addiction can develop for any activity or substance that causes feelings of pleasure (eating, drugs, games…). Addiction refers to a situation in which a person is willing to devote considerable amounts of time and effort to be able to use a substance or carry out an activity, such as gambling.
If using the substance or carrying out the activity is not possible, the person feels anxious, becomes nervous and may experience various types of withdrawal symptoms. A person suffering from addiction continues to use the substance or carry out the activity regardless of the social harm or damage to health caused by it.
Addictions can be treated efficiently, but it is also possible to become free of them on your own. Lots of self help programmes have been developed for various types of addictions. TESTS are available at the PÄIHDELINKKI site. Getting rid of an addiction requires admitting the problem and true will to rid oneself of the addictive substance or activity.
An addiction may be social, psychological or physical or a combination of all of them. Social addiction refers to addiction to the group using a possibly addictive substance. Smoking started during school years, for example, is usually related to some sort of peer group pressure.
In the case of psychological addiction, a person has, for example, learned to seek instant gratification or a way out from difficult situations by using a certain substance or carrying out a certain activity. Lack of the substance or activity causing the addiction may cause intense nervousness and anxiety. Physical addiction manifests itself as physical withdrawal symptoms, such as headache, sweating, shaking or sleeping disorders.
Learning experiences, difficult life situations and genetic predisposition have been shown to play a role in the development of addiction. Addiction can be learned, such as when smoking has become a way of spending time or preparing for a situation causing anxiety. Addiction can also result from a difficult life situation and crisis, such as when one tries to seek comfort for one’s own anxieties in alcohol.
Also genetic characteristics have been found to possibly have an effect on the onset of addiction. An exceptionally good ability to withstand alcohol, for example, is somewhat inherited and a characteristic that predisposes one to becoming addicted to alcohol.
Treatment of addictions
Addictions are a fairly big problem in Finland, and lots of treatment options are therefore available. The most suitable treatment option is selected on an individual basis. It can include, for example, conversational therapy either individually or in a group setting or with people who have already recovered from addiction, medication or various self-help programmes.
People with an alcohol or drug addiction usually start seeking treatment through the health centre, social welfare office or occupational or student health services. In many municipalities, A-CLINICS offer treatment for those suffering from various types of addictions as well as support for their loved ones. Other institutions offering treatment include, amongst others, youth centres, detoxification centres and addiction rehabilitation facilities.
It is useful for a person suffering from an addiction to think about their life in general. How did the addiction begin? What might be the cause of addiction? Do I, for example, use alcohol or drugs when I am stressed or nervous? What else could I do in such situations? Am I able to influence the things in my life that create the need for me to hurt myself? What could I do instead of using the addictive substance or doing the addictive activity?
Freeing oneself of an addiction usually requires some kind of behavioural change. A person suffering from addiction should plan carefully in advance how they plan to act in situations where it is difficult to reject the temptation of alcohol or drug or the harmful activity. For some, getting rid of an addiction may be fairly easy, for others, it may require major changes in thinking, behaviour and one’s way of life.
For more information on addictions and treatment options, see the PÄIHDELINKKI SITE.
Excessive use of alcohol is known to predispose people to mental health problems. Alcohol may be used to fight back anxiety and fear of social situations, for example, or in life crises. Frequent use of alcohol may, however, only make the anxiety or depression worse and cause panic attacks. Alcohol also deteriorates the quality of sleep, so it doesn’t really work as a sleep medication either.
Instead of alcohol, you can seek help for anxiety from, for example, psychotherapy, occupational health services, a crisis counsellor at a CRISIS CENTRE or discussing your situation with a personal support worker or in a group at TUKINET web crisis centre. If drinking has become an addiction, the treatment of an underlying mental health problem may become more difficult.
Alcohol dependence or alcoholism is labelled by a compulsory use of alcohol without caring about the social damage and damage to health caused by it. People suffering from alcoholism usually have an elevated ability to withstand alcohol, meaning that they have to drink larger volumes of alcohol to reach the same condition. Also strong withdrawal symptoms predisposing a person for continued use are typical. An alcohol dependence may, however, also develop without an increased tolerance for alcohol or the onset of withdrawal symptoms. A very good tolerance for alcohol may even increase the risk of alcoholism.
After the dependence on alcohol has developed, a person has trouble controlling their drinking: they easily use more alcohol or for a longer period of time than originally planned, drinking or recovering from alcohol takes up considerable amounts of time and the person is not able to reduce or stop using alcohol even if they want to and even with the problems caused by drinking.
A genetic predisposition plays a role in the development of alcoholism. Continuous use of alcohol may cause changes in brain activity in people with a genetic predisposition to alcoholism.
Controlled or minor use of alcohol may be impossible for such people, and for them, total abstinence is the only option. You can start seeking help for alcohol dependence through your health centre, social welfare office or an A-CLINIC, for example. Various treatment options and facilities are available for the treatment of alcoholism.
Prescription drug dependency
The most common medications causing addiction are fast-acting medications intended for the treatment of anxiety, sleeping problems and pain. The effect of antidepressants, for example, usually only starts after several weeks, which is why abusing them or becoming addicted to them is quite unlikely. A prescription drug addiction is the most likely to develop for medications that quickly create a very good feeling and that tend to cause physiological withdrawal symptoms felt in the body, such as anxiety or headaches.
In order to prevent prescription medication addiction, medicines intended for the use with anxiety or sleeping disorders, for example, should only be used according to the doctor’s instructions. If the medication has been used for a longer time, the doctor usually instructs the patient to taper down the dosage in order to prevent withdrawal symptoms. If you have already developed a drug dependency, you can start seeking help through a health centre or an A-CLINIC, for example. For more information on prescription drug addiction and seeking help for it, see the PÄIHDELINKKI site.
In the case of Internet addiction, it is not so much about how much time you spend online, but about the harm caused by it to personal relationships and health, for example. A person suffering from Internet addiction feels a compulsory need to spend time in discussion forums, chats or sex sites, for example. The addiction can present itself in many ways, such as checking your emails compulsively. The addiction may not be so much about Internet itself, but the possibilities to experience suspense or anonymous pleasure, for example.
Internet addiction is still a new phenomenon that has not yet been determined unambiguously. Most uses of Internet are useful and harmless, and for most users, the use causes nuisances not amounting to an actual addiction. If you feel like you are using Internet too much, it causes feelings of guilt and possibly neglecting your health or family, it is probably a good idea to pay attention to it. For more information on Internet addiction and seeking help for it, see the PÄIHDELINKKI site.