Addiction is a serious disease, characterized by an obsession of the mind and an allergen of the body combined with a spiritual malady. Although the average citizen frequently misunderstands addiction, addiction awareness and education is on the rise. Television shows such as TLC's "Intervention" and MTV's "Real Life: I'm Addicted to X" are gaining popularity. When audiences watch these and related shows they find themselves simultaneously entertained and educated. Addiction is generally thought of as occurring within one of two categories: behavioral and substance. Substance addiction is a deadly disease that involves a mind-altering chemical, illegal or legal, and a compulsion to continue seeking out and using the chemical regardless of negative outcomes. People can become addicted to anything from psychoactive stimulants like cocaine to tranquilizers and sedatives like Ambien. Prescription drug addiction can start out when a medical professional prescribes someone a narcotic. Everything is by the book and fine until the addictive personality crosses a metaphorical "line" with the substance of choice -- at that point the game is over. This person has a genetic predisposition for addiction plus an environment conducive to addiction. Once the line between normal use has been crossed over and transformed into an abnormal obsession, the addict becomes helplessly chained to the behavior or the drug and requires outside help to recover. Alcoholism can start when the occasional social drink turns into an absolute "necessity" for survival. Regardless of the exact timing of the initial addictive period, it is a life-threatening disease.
Symptoms of various forms of addiction commonly show up in the following ways:
- Tolerance - The need to engage in the addictive behavior on an increased basis or to ingest higher doses of the drug to get the same desired effect
- Withdrawal - Adverse affects that occur when the addict stops engaging in his/her addictive behavior or stops taking his/her drug of choice. The unpleasant symptoms they experience are often completely opposite of the symptoms the addict experiences while engaging in their addiction
- Social, occupational, and recreational activities revolving around the addiction, or changing activities to shift toward ones that favor a drug-friendly or addictive-rich community, such as a gambling addict joining a casino club or a sex addict attending swinger's parties
- A preoccupation with the addiction - planning it, seeking it out, lying or deceiving others to cover up the extent of the addiction, acting out in unusual ways in order to fulfill cravings
Almost everyone is aware of nicotine addiction in this day in age. Anti-tobacco legislature and lobbyists have made a point in emphasizing the negative health consequences smoking cigarettes creates. Nicotine in any form is dangerous. Smoking or chewing it is moot when it comes to health risks. Once addicted, it is very difficult to quit. Addiction becomes a powerful entity within a human being and becomes a bigger problem than simply a matter of will power, morality, or "good" versus "bad". Nicotine is a powerful chemical that alters brain chemistry in a very addictive way.
Addiction statistics are startling. They often fall short of the actual rate of use and deaths that occur from drugs, as many incidents go unreported. According to a government-funded online resource for addiction statistics, "Alcohol in combination with other drugs was the most frequently mentioned drug at time of emergency department admission (204,524 individuals), followed by cocaine (174,896 individuals), heroin/morphine (97,287 individuals), and marijuana (96,446 individuals). From 1999 to 2000, emergency department mentions of prescription drugs containing oxycodone increased 68 percent (from 6,429 to 10,825 individuals), and mentions of drugs containing hydrocodone increased 31 percent (from 14,639 to 19,221 individuals)." Thankfully, teenagers are starting to show higher signs of resistance to illegal drugs such as hallucinogens and heroin. The Internet has helped fuel the information-sharing age in which current events, research, and general information is readily available in unprecedented volumes. This has led to more people becoming aware of addiction in its many forms.