WHAT IS ADDICTION?
‘Addiction’, a term used rather loosely today, encompasses a larger and much more complex, biological and psychological meaning. Addiction refers to the inability and powerlessness of a person to stop using a substance or engaging in an activity / behavior that causes physical or psychological harm to them. It is a chronic medical condition involving composite interlinkage between brain circuits and other factors influencing its likelihood. The American Society of Addiction Medicine claims that “people with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.”
MISUSE AND ADDICTION: NOT THE SAME
Misuse of a substance is commonly and incorrectly associated with addiction to that substance, when in fact, it has its own definition and is categorized as a completely different situation. The misuse of a substance - for example a drug - refers to quite literally misusing the matter at higher doses than necessary or in an inappropriate predicament, leading to physical and emotional issues.
For example, overdosing on a drug would lead to extremely harmful side effects and other health and psychological problems. However, this overdose is not necessarily categorized as being ‘addicted’ to that drug; it just means that the drug has been misused, leading to the person suffering its detrimental effects. On the flip side, an addicted person will continue to misuse the substance or behavior in spite of its consequences.
BEHAVIORAL ADDICTION VS SUBSTANCE ADDICTION
Contrary to popular belief, addiction is not restricted to material substances. Addiction of behaviors or activities proves to be just as serious. Behavioral addiction often does not often witness the same physical warning signs that substance addictions face. They do, however, have similar consequences and will undergo certain symptoms that negatively impact family and others around. Common behavioral addictions include addiction to the internet, shopping, gambling and video games.
Unbeknownst to many, one of the most common factors that result in addiction is genetics. Biological factors like gender and physiological variations made of different concentrations of enzymes in the body also affect the likelihood of a person developing an addiction. Psychological factors play a role too, including previous experiences, trauma or abuse. Mental health and personality play a big role in determining how probable addiction is. Needless to say, environmental factors like the people one surrounds themselves with, the kind of social and employment status they have, how accessible they are to information and exposure, and their relationships with everyone heavily influence their habits and are usually held responsible for someone’s addiction.