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When you’re watching a television show about addiction, it’s easy to wonder why addicts can’t just stop on their own. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple because addiction is an illness and not a personality trait. Addicts are no better equipped to stop using than diabetics are equipped to produce more insulin.
“Addiction isn’t a question of willpower,” says Richard Ready, MD, the medical director of New Day Center with Adventist Hinsdale Hospital. “It’s a vicious cycle that can cause changes in the brain, making the addict totally lose control after a period of controlled abuse.”
What is an addiction?
We all have our vices – for some, it’s chocolate, for others, the Internet – but what constitutes an addiction is someone’s compulsion to continue a behavior despite it being harmful to him or her. A behavior becomes harmful when it negatively interferes with relationships or quality of life.
However, even healthy behaviors, like exercising, can become an addiction if taken too far. “If someone is going to the gym for eight hours a day, seven days a week, that could be unhealthy because it interferes with all other areas of a person’s life, including relationships, jobs and social life,” Dr. Ready says. “Not all addictions look bad at first glance, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t destructive.”
The most common types of addictions include: alcohol; drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and heroine and prescription medications; pathologic gambling; eating disorders, such as bulimia, anorexia and overeating; and sexual addiction.
Although anyone can develop an addiction, those with a family history are more at risk. “Because we know addictions – like alcoholism – tend to travel in families, family members of addicts should be especially careful,” Dr. Ready says. “We encourage family members and children to not abuse drugs or alcohol in the first place.”
What to look out for
Although each addiction has its own warning signs, the following are general behaviors to watch out for:
- Increased tolerance – tolerance is the need to gradually increase the quantity and frequency of the drug to get the same effect.
- Changes in personality – shifts in energy and mood can be a sign of dependency.
- Changes in daily habits and appearance – sleeping, personal hygiene and eating habits may change.
- Social withdrawal – a person may shy away from family and friends, and instead spend time with people who share their addiction.
- Neglecting responsibilities – including calling in sick to work more often and neglecting household chores and bills.
- Defensiveness – if an addict is confronted with their behavior, they may feel defensive and be in denial.
“If you know someone who exhibits these symptoms, don’t assume he or she will grow out of it,” Dr. Ready says. “These issues need to be confronted professionally.”
At Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, New Day Center helps patients who face addiction by treating their physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual needs.
In addition to offering comprehensive medical detoxification, New Day Center has interventions available, partial hospitalization programs, intensive evening outpatient programs and a two-year aftercare program. Because each person is unique, a patient’s care plan is individualized. Counselors, medical doctors and families work together to help heal the patient.
“Addiction doesn’t just impact the addict,” Dr. Ready says. “Family, friends and coworkers also feel the effects. Professional treatment is the best way to get everybody on the right path again.”
Are you addicted? Contact the New Day Center for a free assessment
at (630) 856-7701.