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Addiction is described as the compulsive activity and over-whelming involvement with a specific activity, whether gambling, smoking or activities that involve the use of almost any substance such as drugs. With drug addiction the dependency may be psychologic or both psychologic and physical. A psychologic dependence can be very powerful and difficult to overcome. It is based on a desire to continue taking a drug to induce pleasure or to relieve tension and avoid discomfort. Drugs that cause this type of dependency work on the brain creating effects such as reduced anxiety and tension, pleasurable mood changes such as elation or euphoria, feelings of increased mental and physical ability and an altered sense of perceptions. When the dependence is physical the body adapts to the drug when it is used continually leading to a tolerance and then withdrawal symptoms when use stops.

The tolerance of any addiction is the need to progressively increase the use of a drug or activity to which one is addicted. Withdrawal symptoms occur when the drug use is stopped or blocked by an antagonist or the person is refrained from the activity. With drug withdrawal the person will feel sick and may develop symptoms such as headaches, diarrhea or shaking. This type of withdrawal can evoke serious and even life threatening illnesses. In recent studies much attention has been given to the addictive personality. Most people who have addictions have low self-esteem, are immature, are easily fustrated and have difficulty solving personal problems. Addicts may try to escape reality and are often withdrawn, fearful or depressed. Some will have a history of self inflicted injuries or suicide attempts. They are described as having dependent personalities, grasping for support in their relationships and having difficulty taking care of themselves. In some cases the addict will display overt and unconscious rage and uncontrolled sexual expression.

From time to time family members and friends of addicts will act in ways that allow the abuse to continue. These people are considered to be co-dependent and are referred to as enablers. Enablers are constantly making excuses for the addict but rarely do anything to help the addict change their behavior. Addictions can take the form of alcoholism, narcotic addiction, anti-anxiety drug addiction, sleep aid addiction, marijuana abuse, amphetamine abuse, cocaine abuse, hallucinogen abuse, phencyclidine abuse, inhalant abuse, gambling, smoking, compulsive disorders and much more. If you suspect or know that a family member or friend has an addiction you should begin by encouraging the addict to stop the abuse and enter a treatment program. If the addict refuses you should pull back from any regular contact with the person.

Although this type of approach may seem harsh it can be coupled with a professionally guided intervention to help convince an addict that they must make behavioral changes. Refusing to make excuses for an addict or to enable them in any way will often help them to desire the needed change of their actions. Especially when the relationship between you and the addict is a very close one. If you are unsure if you are dealing with an addict watch for the signs mentioned above. You could save their life by recognizing their problem and doing everything possible to intervene.