Recently, the Nigerian government banned the sale of codeine.
This was a fallout of a documentary which highlighted an addiction plague involving the use of the drug.
Addiction has become a global problem evident in the United Nations report that 185 million people globally over the age of 15 were drug abusers at the end of the 20th century. To better understand the problem of addiction, it is crucial to understand what addiction is.
Addiction is a condition in which a person engages in the use of a substance or in behaviour for which the rewarding effects provide a compelling incentive to repeatedly pursue the behaviour despite detrimental consequences. For example, a person who abuses alcohol might have taken on the habit as a sort of relief from stress. However, when the negative consequences of repeated overindulgence in alcohol such as hangovers, low productivity, poor health, etc are not enough to stop the person from taking alcohol, addiction has set in.
Addictions are complex disorders that have genetic and environmental causes. Apart from substances, people can also get addicted to activities such as gambling, internet use, etc.
Addictive behaviours have subtle beginnings, with the person having control at the initial stage. However, with time the person loses control over their willpower and repeatedly crave the substance of addiction. In this article, emphasis will be placed on drug addiction/abuse because of its documented societal impact.
Causes and symptoms of addiction
A survey by the National Institute of Drug Abuse found that people abused drugs for a variety
of reasons which include:
To feel good – feeling of pleasure
To feel better – relieve stress
To do better – improve performance
Curiosity and peer pressure
Symptoms of substance use disorder include:
Impaired control: a craving or strong urge to use the substance; desire or failed attempts to cut down or control substance use
Social problems: substance use causes failure to complete major tasks at work, school or home; social, work, or leisure activities are given up or cut back because of substance use
Risky use: substance is used in risky settings; continued use despite known problems
Drug effects: tolerance (need for larger amounts to get the same effect); withdrawal symptoms (different for each substance).
How addictions are formed
Additions can result from the way a person thinks. The cognitive model perceives dependency as due to distorted thinking, like believing happiness only occurs through addictive behaviours. Such beliefs lead to a mindset of personal incapability to control dependency behaviours and an inability to direct attention away from them. In this situation, the person might only focus on the pleasure the addiction brings while ignoring the negative impact on his/her life. For instance, a compulsive gambler might enjoy the thrill of playing his/her favourite game and ignore the financial losses that come with the activity.
Another way addictions form is through learning. By observing and imitating models, people can pick up addictive habits. Research has shown this to be the case in smoking; by observing peers or significant others, the individual adopts a behaviour that proves addictive.
Biologists view addiction as having genetic origins. Biological explanations propose that some people have a genetic vulnerability to addiction which can be triggered by environmental stressors. Addicts are perceived as having an impaired pre-frontal cortex that does not stop them from pursuing damaging reinforcements. Increased dopamine production also results in desensitisation, where higher doses are required to achieve satisfaction. Biological explanations perceive gambling as increasing dopamine and other neurotransmitter production, to gambling addiction, such as impulsivity, high sensation-seeking and susceptibility to boredom.
Prevention and Management
Unfortunately, addictions are rarely tackled until they are formed. This is a costly approach as prevention is a cheaper alternative. Addiction can be prevented through:
Addiction education through public and private institutions e.g. government, NGOs,
Adequate parental monitoring to reduce negative peer/media influence
School programs such as drug abuse clubs
Professional organisations with a clear mandate around addiction prevention
Effective policing to ensure drugs of abuse are not accessible unless via professional
outlets. This will reduce the chances of children and adolescents getting their hands
Most of the preventive measures listed above are aimed at children and adolescents because of their vulnerability. However, adults and children could profit from professional services that specialise in therapeutic intervention especially in the management of addiction. Health professionals such as therapists and employee assistance professionals are a vital part of the prevention and management framework as they are trained to help people regain well-being while maintaining the utmost confidentiality.
In conclusion, management of addiction problems need a holistic approach that goes beyond
banning substances to recognizing the role of different societal structures from the family to
Where to get help
People struggling with addiction are advised to seek the help of professionals. Family
members and friends can help with recruiting professional service for affected loved ones.
To access more information and help, individuals can check the following resources:
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Image Credits: Addiction, Pexels