Addiction was once classified as a disease and is still listed in the Diagnostic Statistics Manual (4th ed., Rev.). The DSM-IV defines addiction as abuse and dependence. Abuse is the use of a drug, alcohol or behavior either daily or periodically without the need to use. Dependence or addiction is the consistent use without stopping. The addict who cannot use begins to experience withdrawal. The body is readjusting to the lack of the substance.
Research conducted over the years has established that addiction is more than a psychological issue. Especially when the substance or behavior is used to medicate emotions or pain. Use may begin as recreational, but over time it can become an addiction.
The behaviors become adaptive the longer a person uses a drug or alcohol. Moods and attitudes change, guilt, anger, and shame are most common. The reactions are to what you may feel is normal inquiries, but the addict or alcoholic feels it is unreasonable. The addict begins to search out ways to keep the use hidden, finding stash places around his or her home, in the car and at work. Sneaking away for short periods of time, frequent trips to the bathroom, and perhaps locking the door to the bedroom.
There are at least two levels of addiction, the functioning addict and the one who has lost everything. The functioning addict or alcoholic is still going to work and has set rules around using or drinking. The job is the last thing to go. As long as the addict or alcoholic continues to function at work and has not lost the job, even the loss of family or friends is not a concern. It is not that the loss is not noticed or felt, but the addiction has taken over.
Addiction is a cunning and baffling disease, as if it has a mind of its own. The addict or alcoholic can swear to stopping, may even “go on the wagon.” Then one day finds he or she is using or drinking again without a clue as to why. The cycle is difficult to break without help and without a change in attitude. The addict cannot afford to keep going to the same places, hanging out with the same people and keep paraphernalia in the home.
Addiction is insidious, indiscriminate, and couldn’t care less who you are. Anyone can be an addict. Judges, lawyers, doctors, nurses, store clerks, your neighbor, aunt or uncle, there are no rules about who will or won’t become an addict. Becoming an addict is not a plan or a desire by anyone. After a time you find that you cannot stop using without experiencing illness, discomfort, and a sense of insanity. Your body and emotions are out of control without the drug, alcohol or behavior. The problem is not to keep using so you feel normal. You are not using to have fun, you are using to live in your skin.
You can be addicted to drugs (prescription, illegal, over the counter), alcohol, cigarettes, tobacco, soda, food, sex, gambling, high risk behavior, worry, news, gossip, there is nothing that cannot be an addiction. Anything that takes you out of self, medicates the emotions, obliterates the bad memories, and erases the pain, even if it is only a moment, qualifies as a potential for addiction.