“Addiction” is a word that we often jokingly use, as in “I’m addicted to coffee/ice-cream/men/women”. The truth though is that the real thing is very serious.
What is addiction?
Indulging in a little bit of something now and then is very much part of our relaxation ritual. That something could be a substance or behaviour, for example, a drink, food, sex, shopping, a smoke, or something a little harder, like recreational drugs. The tricky part is knowing when you’ve gone over the very fine line between having fun and getting addicted.
Watch out for any of these:
- Your desire for the substance or behaviour becomes a craving, and you feel you can’t function without it
- The “high” you used to get from it is no longer enough and you need more
- Your behaviour changes, and people close to you may feel like they don’t know you anymore
- You experience physical symptoms like a runny nose, dry mouth, constricted pupils or shortness of breath
- You feel unfocussed and disoriented, except when it comes to planning how to get your next hit
- Your emotions feel out of control, and can range from depression or irritation to downright paranoia
- Your energy levels are a roller-coaster, going from hyped to completely exhausted within minutes
- You may feel guilty and ashamed, and therefore take part in your addiction when you’re alone or with others who will do it with you
- You’ll do almost anything to get that next hit, including stealing, lying and taking dangerous risks
- Long term goals no longer motivate you, and you lose interest in activities you used to enjoy, like hobbies or spending time with friends
- The mundane aspects of daily life, like eating, hygiene and attending classes, no longer seem so important
The bottom line
Left untreated, addiction can lead to losing your place in your study programme, your job, relationship, friends and family, and you may end up having to deal with legal action and serious health issues.
The good news is that there are many ways that addiction can be treated (more on this next month). So if you notice any of these symptoms in your friends or family, encourage them as best you can to seek help. And if you’re even slightly worried about yourself, the longer you leave it, the more difficult it gets, so reach out for support sooner rather than later.