An important part of our society is the various types of addiction that exist within it. Action on Addiction say that 1 in 3 people have some form of addiction, whether this is gambling, drugs, alcohol or something else. With such a proclivity to addiction, it’s vital to understand some key facts and provide support to social workers who focus on addiction, so that we can – as a community – help each other more.
Addictions can begin due to the way a substance affects a person physically or mentally, as seen with nicotine and the consequences of tobacco. A person feels this sensation and wants to repeat it, thereby beginning a dependency on the substance. The difference between a habit and an actual addiction is that if someone is addicted, the lack of a certain element in their lives (for example cigarettes, betting or a drink) will cause withdrawal symptoms. These are unpleasant reactions which can include anxiety, depression, headaches, nausea and palpitations, to name but a few.
Addictions can be brought about in different ways. It can be as simple as peer pressure as a teenager causing you to accept a cigarette at a party or try a pill you weren’t sure you wanted. Other times, it can be due to stress (from work or personal problems) which causes someone to seek solace in an addictive substance or activity. Unemployment and poverty are seen as key environmental triggers, despite some studies believing that addiction is a genetic trait.
What can you do if you suspect someone you love is addicted to something?
Step 1 should usually be talk to an expert. Your suspicions may be wrong or you might be missing some of the information, so an expert (social worker, counsellor or staff member at an addiction charity) will know how to proceed in the best manner. After that, the treatments can vary. Sometimes it may be easier for one person to break an addiction than another, or they might require time in an addiction facility where they have help from professionals. Group meetings are recognised as valuable outlets, since they provide the addict with a safe space to discuss their issues with people who can truly understand and empathise. Either way the key thing to remember is to provide a support system around someone who is suffering from an addiction. They need the love of their friends and family to bolster their courage at facing their problem and thereby beat it.
Addiction is becoming an ever-present part of our lives, and there are new threats that we have to be prepared for. Besides more ‘traditional’ addictions, such as alcohol or drugs, people are now at risk of becoming addicted to social media, love or shopping – with the NHS even needing to open its first internet addiction clinic. If you feel at all like you may have an unhealthy dependency on a substance or activity (even if you think it’s something positive such as exercise), please reach out to someone, whether it’s a friend, colleague or professional to begin treatment.