Addiction: Definition and Prevalence
Addiction is a plague that affects individuals and society in an adverse manner. It is a very costly illness that has worldwide prevalence. A study conducted in Australia found that $437m was lost in 2001 due to alcohol related absenteeism (Pidd, Berry & Roche, 2006). In the UK, a study conducted in 2001 found that alcohol related work absenteeism had an economic cost of an average £1.5bn per year (Institute of Alcohol Studies, 2009).
Forms of Addiction
There are many forms of addiction. The most commonly recognized addictions include alcoholism, cigarette smoking, marijuana smoking and illicit drug use (such as amphetamines and opiates). Research has shown that other forms of addictions have become problematic including gambling, workaholism, exercise, viewing pornography and other sexual behaviors. These are commonly referred to as behavioral addictions (Martin, Weinberg & Bealer, 2007; DiClemente, 2006).
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) conducted in 2007, surveyed over 67, 000 Americans who were 12 years and older. This study found that 8% of the population were illicit drug users with marijuana being the most commonly used drug. 6.9% of the population reported to be heavy drinkers while 23% of the population reported participating in binge drinking (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA], 2008).
The National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) conducted in 2007 recruited 25,000 Australians aged 14 years and older as participants to investigate drug use trends in Australia. The study found that 38.1% of Australians aged 14 years and older had used illicit drugs at some point in their lives and 13.4% of Australians reported they had used drugs in the last12 months. The most commonly used drugs were Marijuana (9.1%) and ecstasy (3.5%). The study also reported an increase in cocaine use between 2004 and 2007. 8.1% reported daily use of alcohol (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2008).
The 2007 United Kingdom Focal Point report, covering 16 to 59 year olds from England and Wales found that, 35.4% used drugs in their lifetime (ever); 10.2% used drugs in the last year (recent use); and 6 % used drugs in the last month (current use). The latest findings from the 2007-2008 British Crime Survey found that 9.3% of 16 to 59 year olds used drugs in the last year and 5.3 % used drugs in the last month. Like USA and Australia, Cannabis/Marijuana was the most commonly used drug across all recall periods in the UK followed by cocaine for recent and current use (REITOX National Focal Point, 2008).
Definition of Addiction
Addiction refers to persistent, repetitive and often irresistible self destructive activity that, at its beginning, is perceived as rewarding. It involves addictive behavior that once learnt it becomes difficult to get rid of despite its negative consequences on the individual and their environment. The term addiction is often used to refer to physiological dependence on the substance (DiClemente, 2003; Martin, Weinberg & Bealer, 2007).
All addictions are said to be disorders that result in uncontrolled repetitive behaviors and in most cases addicts may not recognize the harmful effects of their behaviors until the behavior progressively disrupts their lives (Martin, Weinberg & Bealer, 2007). Addiction is viewed as a chronically relapsing disorder characterized by compulsion to take the substance, loss of control and emergence of negative emotional stages of dysphoria (Koob & Simon, 2009).
Drug use along with other potentially addictive activities such as gambling or sex causes the brain to release dopamine, a chemical involved in experiencing pleasure (Phillips & Crabble, 2005). This surge in dopamine can be so powerful that it compels users to keep taking the drug. With prolonged use, however, drugs can alter the brain so that experiencing pleasure without the drug is nearly impossible.
At this point, drug use does not raise dopamine levels or produce a “high”, instead, the user keeps taking the drug to manage painful withdrawal symptoms such as fever, cramps, violent nausea, and depression (Robbins & Everitt, 1999). Based on research of how drugs affect the brain, scientists have theorized that people who are deficient in dopamine may be more likely than others to become addicted (Robbins & Everitt, 1999). The two contrasting perspectives on addiction, biological versus behavioral influences, is an ongoing debate over the appropriate way to treat drug addictions and alcoholism.
Source: General Addiction CE Course