How we help
Addiction is common in trauma victims and people whose family history suggests they have a genetic predisposition. Common addictions occur with alcohol, drugs, gambling, internet games, internet porn, sex addiction, shopping and food. Nobody sets out to get addicted. The addiction occurs through the reinforcing pleasurable effects of the substance or behaviour. Chasing the pleasure then becomes compulsive, and problematic when it interferes with work, relationships, or health. People who have developed an addiction may not be aware that their substance use or behaviour is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others.
What are the symptoms
Do you have an addiction?
It is very unlikely that when you began using, that you intended to become addicted. You have either accidentally formed an addiction as the substance was used to self-medicate anxiety or depression or else, the addiction started off as recreational in a social setting and progressed as time passes. You are addicted if you develop a higher tolerance (need to frequently engage in the behaviour more often to get the same effects), and experience intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms if you don’t take the substance. Below is a list of the common symptoms of addiction.
- Over-active or under-active (depending on the drug)
- Repetitive speech patterns
- Dilated pupils, red eyes
- Excessive sniffing and runny nose (not attributable to a cold)
- Looking pale or undernourished
- Clothes do not fit the same
- Weight loss
- Change in eating habits
- Unusual odours or body odour due to lack of personal hygiene
- Missing work/school
- Work/school problems
- Missing important engagements
- Isolating/secretive about activities
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Legal problems
- Relationship/marital problems
- Financial problems (e.g. always needing money)
- Conversations dominated by using or drug/alcohol related topics
- Shame, embarrassment
- Feeling guilty
- Inability to deal with stress
- Loss of interest in activities/people that used to be part of their lives
- Confused easily
- Rationalising – offering alibis, excuses, justifications, or other explanations for their using behaviour
- Minimisation – admitting superficially to the problem but not admitting to the seriousness or full scope of the behaviour or consequences
- Blaming – placing the blame for the behaviour on someone else or some event
- Diversion – changing the subject to avoid discussing the topic
- Loss of control over the amount and frequency of use
- Craving and compulsive using
- Continued use or engagement in the face of adverse consequences
Facts about addiction
Did you know…
- A drug is any substance that, when taken or administered into the body has a physiological effect. A psychoactive or psychotropic drug affects mental processes and can influence mood, behaviour, cognition and perception.
- People use drugs and alcohol for many reasons – to relax, have fun, socialise, cope with problems, escape life or dull emotional/physical pain. Using substances to cope does not make problems go away, and can make them worse or add new problems to the mix. Becoming dependent on drugs in order to cope, rather than getting help or finding positive solutions, can create longer term problems.
- Almost 1 in 5 Australians aged 14 or older consume more than 2 standard alcoholic drinks per day on average, exceeding the lifetime risk guidelines and 1 in 4 (26%) had, on at least 1 occasion per month, consumed alcohol at a level placing them at risk of injury.
- 15% of Australians have used an illicit drug in the previous 12 months and 42% have used an illicit drug in their life time.
- Almost 5% of Australians have used a pharmaceutical drug for non-medical purposes in the previous 12 months.
- An estimated 133,895 Australians received treatment from specialist alcohol and other drug treatment agencies in 2015–16. Alcohol was the most common drug leading people to seek treatment, accounting for 32% of treatment episodes. Counselling was the most common treatment type (36%).
- Over 1 in 2 pregnant women consumed alcohol before they knew they were pregnant and 1 in 4 continued to drink once they knew they were pregnant.
- The First Nations Australians were 2.5 times as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to smoke tobacco daily.
- Almost twice as many recent illicit drug users as non-users have been diagnosed with, or treated for, a mental illness.
There are a number of signs that may indicate you are addicted to a substance or behaviour:
- Regular or continued substance use to cope emotionally, socially or physically.
- Neglecting responsibilities and activities that are important or that you used to enjoy (for example, work, study, family, hobbies, sports, social commitments).
- Participating in dangerous or risky behaviours as a result of substance use (for example, drink driving, unprotected sex, using dirty needles, taking your credit/debit card with you when you know you have a problem).
- Relationship problems (for example, arguments with your partner, family, friends, or losing friends).
- Physical tolerance – needing more of the substance to experience the same effects.
- Withdrawal – physical and mental withdrawal symptoms when you are not using the substance or needing the substance to feel “normal” (for example, nausea, vomiting, shaking, trembling, sweating, fatigue, heart palpitations).
- Losing control of your substance use – being dependent or unable to stop even if you want or try to.
- Substance use takes over your life (for example, spending a lot of time using, finding or getting the substance and recovering from the effects).
WhAt treatment is available
There are options
Addiction is treatable, if you are willing. The first phase is withdrawal from the problem substance/activity. There are both physical and psychological effects that occur when you stop, including such physical signs as nausea and vomiting, chills and sweats, muscle cramps and aches, sleeplessness, shifts in heart rate, even fever. Emotional effects include depression, anxiety, irritability, and mood swings. Withdrawal symptoms typically last three to five days. While they are rarely life-threatening, medical supervision is usually wise, either with your GP or in a residential rehabilitation treatment program. There are medications your doctor can prescribe to help you to alleviate the acute discomfort of withdrawal. Successful treatment has several steps:
- detoxification (the process by which the body rids itself of a drug or behaviour)
- behavioural counseling
- medication (for opioid, tobacco, or alcohol addiction)
- evaluation and treatment for co-occurring mental health issues such as depression and anxiety
- long-term follow-up to prevent relapse
Tailored psychological treatment and regular follow-up with your psychologist can be crucial to success.
Here are some helpful links: