Addiction means not having control over doing, taking or using something, to the point that it may be harmful.
Common addictions include addictions to alcohol or drugs, but it is possible to become addicted to anything, from gambling to chocolate.
You cannot control how you use whatever you are addicted to, and you become dependent on it to get through daily life.
From habit to addiction
Some people regularly use substances without any problems. Other people experience damaging psychological and physical effects as their
habit turns into an addiction.
Being unable to control the use of a substance can also put a lot of strain on relationships with others and can cause problems at work, school or home.
There is no single reason why addictions develop. Addictions to substances such as alcohol, drugs and nicotine change the way we feel, both mentally and physically. Some people enjoy this and feel a strong desire to repeat it.
Activities such as gambling may cause a ‘high’ if you win, followed by a desire to repeat the success. Eventually, it grows into a habit that cannot be
broken because it has become a regular part of life.
Dependency and tolerance
Being addicted to a substance usually means you are dependent on it to some degree. Not having the substance you enjoy (withdrawal)
becomes less pleasant than having it.
The more you use it, the more tolerant the body becomes until you need to use larger and more frequent amounts of the substance to get the same effect.
Children who grow up in homes where there is alcohol or drug abuse may be more likely to develop addictions. Unemployment, poverty and lack of
education can trigger addictions, as can stress and professional or emotional pressure. Indulging in the addiction can be a short-term way of dealing
with and forgetting about difficult issues.
Treatment and support
Many different organisations in the UK provide treatment, support and advice for people with addictions. Many people consult their GP first, but help is
also available from community addiction centres, where you can drop in without an appointment.
Treatment and support are provided from a range of different people, including specialist addiction nurses, counsellors and psychiatrists.
Local support groups give you the chance to meet other people with similar experiences.