Imagine this. You have developed an interest in a certain substance or habit. Upon realising its negative impact on your health, pocket or both, you decide to quit. But try as you might, all your efforts to quit have failed. What should you do to overcome your challenge?
Happiness has been defined as the ‘total absence of addictions’. We are not just talking about addictions to ‘hard’ or ‘illegal’ drugs. There are ordinary and regularly used addictive substances such as alcoholic beverages, cigarettes or coffee.
These are called psychoactive substances because they affect the mental function.
There are also non-chemical addictions and these are on the rise: gambling, compulsive sex, pornography, and the internet. There are even addictions to such common items as dieting, medicines or physical exercise.
The vicious cycle of addiction is dangerous. All addictions deprive those involved of personal freedom. In addition, they involve certain risks.
Dependence is one such risk. Drugs or addictive behaviour produce a repetitive desire. And the more one satisfies the desire, the more it returns.
Tolerance is another risk. The drug user needs an increased dose to reach effects of similar intensity as before.
Withdrawal symptoms can be psychological, such as extreme restlessness at one’s inability to obtain the drug or perform the conduct. They can also be physical since the organism is used to the substance and is not receiving it.
Withdrawal symptoms include: insomnia, agitation, palpitation, sweating, nausea and vomiting.
Drugs affect the central nervous system. When a chemical reaches the brain, several vital functions are altered and the person becomes unable to perform the simplest of tasks. When use is prolonged, the drug may cause permanent damage.
The first three risks listed above are not only present in chemical addictions, but also in behavioural addictions. A person addicted to pornography, for example, feels an extremely strong desire to repeat the behaviour.
After some time, previous images are not sufficient, thus heavier and more obscene ones are needed. And when images are unavailable, the person will experience strong tension and frustration.
How to prevent addiction
The majority of addictions, especially those to substances, begin in adolescence and early youth. Therefore, preventive efforts should be targeted at those ages. Since the first years of schooling, children ought to be instructed about drugs and their risks.
School curricula need to make room for talks and seminars led by relevant persons such as former drug addicts, physicians, lawyers, psychologists, police and social workers.
In terms of policy, all primary and secondary schools should declare themselves drug-free zones, taking necessary measures to avoid becoming drug traffic and initiation centres.
Parents of children and youth also have a responsibility to prevent and tackle the problem using strategies such as the following:
-Have a clear position on drugs and addictions.
-Help to build their children’s self-esteem in a healthy manner.
-Maintain a safe and stable home.
-Demonstrate flexibility in ideas and behaviours but within clear limits.
-Offer an impeccable example in all references to addictions.
Authorities also have an important role to play in training against addiction and for total health: attractive and suggestive programmes, use of warning labels (for example, labels on alcoholic beverages and tobacco), rules and regulations of distribution and sale, etc.
It is particularly important to enforce the laws against substance trafficking in primary and secondary schools as well as any place frequented by children and youth.
Other addictions such as work, sex and gambling can appear during adult age. It is important to remember that both chemical and non chemical addictions carry a hidden syndrome of anxiety. For this reason, avoiding anxiety is a sure way to prevent an addiction.
How to overcome addictions.
It is clear that addictions cannot be overcome alone. The affected person needs social, professional and spiritual support.
Therefore, the advice given below is targeted at the addict’s family members or social support system:
If there have been many attempts to abandon the addiction without success, put pressure on the addict to attend a rehabilitation centre.
Support the plan developed by the centre or qualified professional. Trust the treatment and promote it for the wellness of the addict.
Avoid overprotection. This is a great temptation for the loved ones. But in these circumstances, it is necessary to remain firm in everything related to treatment.
Reward achievements, as the drug addict needs external reinforcement to attain new goals.
These may be sweets, films, outings, play, getting together with friends… according to taste and circumstances.
Prepare a relaxing, healthy and favourable environment and try by all means to keep the affected person out of addiction-inviting environments: places, persons, objects, etc. as they can entice him/her to relapse
The social environment also plays a big role. For a prolonged period of time, the person needs someone to continue to firmly watch the social context. Relationships must be with people who know how to enjoy life without abusingly.