According to the dictionary addiction means:
1. Being abnormally tolerant to
and dependent on something that is psychologically or physically habit forming
(especially alcohol and narcotic drugs).
2. An abnormally strong
3. (Roman Law) a formal award
by a court sentence of a thing or person to another (as of a debtor to his
creditor), a surrender to a master; "under Roman law, addiction was the
justification for slavery".
The Chinese have a saying about
heroin 'You begin chasing the dragon but then it jumps on your back and begins
chasing you'. Jackie Pullinger, the British woman who set up a ministry in
Hong Kong t, wrote a book about her experiences there in 'Chasing the Dragon'.
This expression relates to
smoking heroin, but it could be applied for all mood altering drugs, alcohol,
painkillers, tranquillisers, speed, solvents, LSD, cocaine, heroin, crack,
ecstasy, barbiturates, and cannabis. It can apply to adrenalin based
addictions like gambling, sex, shopping, people (co-dependency) and eating
Addiction doesn't just happen.
There is a progression towards chemical dependency, or any other addiction. It
passes through four main stages.
1. Experimental Stage of
The Experimental Stage could
happen out of curiosity or peer pressure. The user may say "I'll just try it I
don't have to use it again" The user may experience pleasure or mood swings.
The outcome may be intoxication or being stoned, or a 'rush' of some sort.
Many who experiment with drugs do not progress to the next stage of addiction.
This may start in early teens
(sometimes younger) with trying alcohol, cigarettes or cannabis. It is easy to
get high because of the body's low tolerance. Often done with their peers away
from a parent or guardian. It may be seen as acting grown up, or a simple act
2. The Recreational Stage of
During the recreational stage
the user may use at the weekends with friends, just to unwind from a stressful
week. Looking for relief. Tolerance increases and more substances may be used,
amphetamines (speed), larger quantities of alcohol. Symptoms may include
stopping out late, suffering hangovers.
The user is by now starting to
plan for use. Waiting for the weekend to be with friends, but also risk taking
may increase by smoking on the way to school. Starting to lie about how much,
and what is being used. Parents may react at this stage by grounding their
3. The Early Dependency
During this stage, the regular
user becomes an abuser. Now maintaining an addictive lifestyle that starts to
affect others. The young user may be missing school and stealing money to feed
the habit. Older users may be struggling to keep their job and running up
debts. There is a daily preoccupation to source drugs and this often leads to
4. The Full Dependency Stage
During this stage of addiction,
there is a self destructive and compulsive desire to escape to oblivion, or
escape from reality. Sobriety is too difficult to face. If left untreated, the
addict may now face despair and risks premature death through overdose,
suicide, accidents or side effects. Many end up with legal problems,
imprisonment and family breakdown.
Addiction causes two main
problems, a chemical (or an adrenalin) dependency problem, and a lifestyle
problem. These are explored within the framework of other articles. Has
addiction faced you or your family?
About the Author: Alan J Butler is a
Recovery Coach and has worked with recovering addicts and ex offenders for the
last 10 years. He spent 3 years living on site as a staff member of the Ovis
Farm Project in Devon, England. He is an Associate of Life for the World
Trust, an organisation whose aim is to equip the church to reach marginalised
people. He holds a Diploma in Coaching & Mentoring from the Institute of
Counselling, Glasgow. He welcomes comments at