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What We Get Wrong About Addictive Disorders

by Lily Hale 3 months ago in addiction
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What is addiction? Is it really a disease?

Photo by Pietro Jeng from Pexels

Addiction has a bad reputation, but one can easily argue that it is healthy and normal for humans to become addicted.

We all get addicted to things. For example, in a romantic relationship, we crave the presence of the other person and following the end of the relationship, we become depressed for a period. Isn’t this technically a withdrawal symptom?

Personally, I don’t think there is something wrong with addiction and whether it turns into something harmful is not to do with how often a person consumes something or engages in a certain behaviour (e.g. wanting to spend a lot of time with a partner) or even whether they have become physically dependent. I think it’s natural that we become addicted and experience withdrawal symptoms multiple times over the course of our lives. An example of this is when we are coming off certain medications or moving elsewhere and feeling homesick.

Maladaptive consumption and behaviour have to do with why we engage in certain behaviours.

If we were to compare two people who work long hours, and the first person does it because they feel passionate about their job and working makes them genuinely happy, whereas the latter does it because they need to feel accomplished in order to feel good about themselves and use their job to regulate their self-esteem, then shouldn’t only the second person be classified a workaholic even if they work the same hours?

The question we should be asking is what purpose a behaviour serves and whether the person can manage their lives without it to determine whether it’s healthy or not. And when it comes to stopping addictive behaviours that are maladaptive, the most important thing is to resolve the issues that lead us to become so dependent in the first place.

The problem with addiction is the myth that there are drugs out there that feel so good, they will get you addicted if you try even just once.

Because of this, when people come across someone battling addiction, they tend to think this person got to where they are because they were irresponsible, ended up hanging out with the wrong crowd, made the mistake of trying drugs or drinking too much and as a result are ruining their life, which would have been fine had it not been for their addiction.

The reality is if someone needs to use drugs or alcohol on a daily basis, there is a reason behind it. People don’t just develop an addiction out of nowhere. Many of us manage to use alcohol recreationally without ever getting addicted.

People who develop addictions don’t do so because their drug of choice feels good. They do it to cope with problems going on in their lives — they need the drug to compensate for something, to feel better about themselves or just to function normally on a daily basis without dealing with depression or intrusive thoughts.

Alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs, yet remains socially acceptable.

It is highly toxic because, unlike most drugs, when someone becomes addicted to alcohol, it is not possible to just stop as the body becomes dependent on it to stay alive. This is why alcohol withdrawal is extremely dangerous compared to, for example, opiate withdrawal, which doesn’t cause death, yet heroin use carries more of a stigma than alcohol use.

To reduce stigma, it is important to empathise with people, realising the fact that addiction is not about a lack of willpower or choice of drug and people who struggle with it have histories that led them to where they are.


About the author

Lily Hale

Writing about trauma, personality disorders, abuse and psychology in general

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