What is Addiction?

Addiction is a word that usually refers to drugs. When someone first uses drugs, we call it substance abuse. We say someone is addicted to drugs when they have no control over whether they want to use the drug or not. That person feels that they have to have that drug.

People can be addicted to a whole variety of things which are not usually labeled as drugs. There are two types of addiction:

1. Physical addiction is when a person’s body becomes dependent on something.

After a while, that person’s body craves more and more of whatever it is, so they can feel OK. Trying to give up can make that person suffer withdrawal symptoms which can last for quite a long time, but slowly get less than the body gets used to doing without.

These withdrawal symptoms can feel like a terrible dose of flu and make a person feel so sick and depressed that they want to go back to whatever they were taking to feel OK again. It is hard to give up.

2. Psychological addiction is when someone craves something which will change their mood or feelings.

They may not get physical withdrawal symptoms, but they may feel lonely, depressed or anxious if they cannot get the thing they desire.

People can become addicted to a wide range of things:

  • drugs – legal and illegal
  • alcohol
  • tobacco
  • some medications
  • inhalants, like sniffing glue or petrol.

People can also become addicted to behaviors, which take over their lives:

  • harmful or risky behaviors
  • hurting themselves
  • compulsive behaviors
  • eating disorder
  • compulsive exercise
  • gambling, video games, mobiles and SMS, and chatting on the internet.

If someone you care about is showing several of these signs, then they could suffer from an addiction and need help.

If someone you care about is suffering from an addiction:

  • Tell that person you care about them and are worried about what they are doing.
  • Tell them you love them and want them to be happy
  • Tell someone you trust about it.
  • Think about your trusted adults and talk to them until something is done.
  • Encourage them to be more active and join in with others.

You cannot really help someone who has an addiction. That person has to help himself or herself. All you can do is show you care what happens to him, tell those adults you trust about your concerns, and be ready to praise every small step he takes to stop the addiction.

Giving up an addiction is difficult, but there are organizations that can help. Someone giving up will need to plan on what they will do and when.

It is important that people in the family know and can be ready to help by being patient and supporting that person while their body and mind cope with withdrawal from the drug or behavior. It may take several tries before that person can feel that they have beaten their addiction.