When you just can’t stop

Compulsive, obsessive and excessive, that’s an addiction

It is most commonly associated with drugs and alcohol, but addiction is something that can affect people from all walks of life, including those who have never tried alcohol or taken a drug in their lives.

The word addiction is generally used to describe an obsession, compulsion or excessive dependence on something, such as substances like drugs and alcohol. People can also become addicted to behaviours, ranging from eating disorders to vandalising and stealing, gambling and video-game addiction, excessive use of the internet, chatting or texting, and even exercising.

How do people become addicted? Many people turn to drugs or alcohol as a means to deal with traumatic or depressing experiences, using it as a way to escape pain or sadness. The problem however is that these same substances lead to addictive behaviour, which only reinforces the problems they were trying to escape from in the first place. For example, a person who turns to drugs to deal with depression will often become more depressed because of their addiction.

How do you overcome an addiction? There are many forms of addiction treatment available. The most important step in beating an addiction is to seek expert counselling. Find out what is available in your community and get treatment. Medical services and GPs carry information on a range of addictions and relevant services to help manage and overcome them.

How can you tell if someone has an addiction? Here are some signs that may indicate that someone you know has an addiction:

  • They use drugs or alcohol to deal with their problems.
  • They ‘drop out’ of their usual lives with family and friends.
  • They suddenly lose interest in things they once liked.
  • They wag school or work, or get behind with their workload.
  • They avoid friends, or hang out with people who use drugs.
  • They start selling their stuff or stealing things.
  • They become moody and start behaving unusually.
  • They become upset, anxious or really depressed.
  • They have problems sleeping or getting out of bed.
  • They put on or lose weight rapidly.

    Support from friends and family is vital to help someone overcome an addiction. Help them to recognise the problem and get medical help. Be patient, it can take many people several goes to beat an addiction.

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