We can become addicted to such substances as alcohol, cannabis, cigarettes or medication. But there are also behavioural addictions such as addictions to gaming or shopping. What causes addiction? And, more importantly: how do you protect yourself? Tips for preventing addiction.
Addiction means being dependent on a substance or a behaviour. The need becomes stronger and stronger and dominates the life of the person affected more and more. Addiction has nothing to do with letting yourself go or a lack of discipline. It’s a serious – but treatable – illness. What can cause it?
Why do people become addicted to drugs? What causes alcohol dependency? Or why is cannabis addictive? What causes gambling addictions? And is social media addictive? Addictions are as varied as their causes: the dependency starts in the brain.
The addictive substance triggers complex chemical reactions in the brain that generate feelings of happiness. A lot of dopamine is released. In addition to a feeling of reward, this happiness hormone also provides a learning signal in the brain. With regular consumption, the brain develops an expectation that more will keep coming. This urge must be satisfied again and again. This mechanism can lead to dependency. Even a sound like opening a bottle can trigger cravings.
There are factors that predispose someone to developing an addiction. The more pronounced and numerous these are, the greater the risk.
Multiple factors cause addiction. In this video, Michel Sutter explains how physical and mental abuse shaped his childhood. He was addicted to drugs and alcohol for 20 years. Now an addiction coach, he explains what factors can lead to someone becoming an addict. These include difficult family relationships.
Addiction is diagnosed if at least three of the following criteria applied in the past twelve months:
How quickly you become addicted to something also depends on the frequency and amount of consumption and the addictive substance itself. A few joints or glasses of wine won’t cause addiction, but dependence on heroin can develop after just a few uses. Why does heroin become addictive so quickly? The opioid binds to various receptors of the brain and releases significant amounts of dopamine extremely quickly. It makes you physically and psychologically dependent within a short time.
In many cases, addiction arises from a feeling of being overwhelmed or emptiness. For instance, changed living circumstances can be a trigger. We then satisfy a mental need with the addictive substance – a need to experience positive feelings.
Inner equilibrium and harmony can help us to overcome challenges and crises. Part of this is dealing with stress in a healthy way, but also dealing with your own emotions. The foundations for this are laid in childhood. But we’re constantly developing these skills.
Our health consultation advisors can provide you with useful tips, including healthy ways of dealing with pressure and stress.
Addiction prevention also means recognising early warning signs. Typical signs are, for example, when a person withdraws more and more, has mood swings, is lacking energy, loses interest.
Remain aware of your own behaviours, too. Be sure to get support from addiction counselling if you lose control of consumption or a certain behaviour, such as an addiction to shopping or computer games.
The experts from Addiction Switzerland provided the editorial team with advice and input for this article. The independent charitable foundation is the national competence centre for prevention, research and knowledge transfer in the field of addiction.
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