We live in a high stress world and we are always searching for something to take the edge off. Some people use exercise, meditation, or community activities to reduce stress but these things take time and don't work immediately. Substance like alcohol, drugs, and food work almost instantly to numb the pain. There are also process addictions (addictions to behaviors rather than substances) such as shopping, video games, and porn. People use them because they work. The down side is that they have some very severe consequences:
- Health problems
- Inability to work or loss of a job
- Breakdown of relationships
- Emotional instability
- Financial trouble
This is a disease and it's not your fault. It won't go away on it's own or by ignoring it. It's ok to ask for help.
Addiction, Secrecy and Shame
The common mental image of an addict or alcoholic is one of a person lying face down in the gutter with a needle in their arm. This is just not the case. Most people suffering from addiction or alcoholism are mothers, fathers, siblings, and co-workers who function very well in their daily life. At least on the surface. Behind closed doors they are in pain and want to stop the cycle but find they cannot. And because of the shame they are scared to reach out for help. Keeping the addiction secret is a primary goal, and they will do anything to protect that secret.
Process addictions are addictions to a behavior rather than to a substance:
- Compulsive eating (especially sugar)
- Sex and porn addiction
- Gambling addiction
- Video games and other screens (TV, smart phones)
These are seen as "acceptable" and yet they can cause just as many problems as substance abuse.
The number of deaths from opioids (fentanyl, Percoset, hydrocodone, Vicodin, oxycodone, oxycontin, heroin, morphine) has sky rocketed over the past couple of years. As the pharmaceutical industry searches for more powerful synthetic pain medications, the risk of physiological dependence, addiction and accidental overdose rises accordingly. For example, fentanyl is 50-100x stronger than morphine and there is even a fentanyl analogue that is 5000x stronger. The death rate for synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, increased by 72% from 2014 to 2015 according to the CDC. Someone might be prescribed a pain medication intended to be used for the short term, but because the meds are so strong they find themselves very quickly dependent on it.
Treatment for Addiction
There are many approaches to treating addiction, including detox and rehab centers. If you are physically dependent on the substance you may need to seek out a medical detox before you can work on the underlying problems that led to the addiction. Some people find 12 step programs very helpful, but some find that they are triggered by these meetings or that they are too worried about confidentiality to go to the meetings. There are other ways.
Addiction is often accompanied by depression, anxiety and other mental health problems. Depression or anxiety can be secondary to the addiction, or the addiction can be an attempt to manage the symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, bipolar, PTSD or other mental health problems. Both the addiction and the mental health problems need to be addressed simultaneously.
At Bay Area Mental Health we have addiction specialists who can help you get sober and stay sober. We use a combination of Harm Reduction and Abstinence approaches, depending on what is most appropriate for the situation. We can help you identify your addiction triggers, teach you skills to help you cope with your addiction and develop a relapse prevention plan to stay sober and ultimately discover what drove you to the addiction to begin with and treat the underlying problem.