By Dr. Anjali Sharma

What is addiction
Addiction is a disease like any other disease. It is a neurobiological disorder characterized by irresistible, obsessive and compulsive dependence on some substance or activity. It can have detrimental effect on

  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Sexual health
  • Social relationships
  • Professional or academic performance


Common addictions
Addictions are many but commonly seen are :

  1. Drug abuse or drug addiction like heroin, cocaine, barbiturates, LSD
  2. Alcohol addiction
  3. Tobacco, nicotine or smoking addiction
  4. Coffee addiction
  5. Sweets addiction
  6. Food addiction
  7. Sex & pornography addiction
  8. Gambling addiction
  9. TV, computer or internet addiction
  10. Shopping addictions

Characteristics of addiction
The substance abused or activity takes the major role in person’s life. There are three main characteristics of addictions

  • Continuation of use or preoccupation with substance or activity despite detrimental effect.
  • Impaired control over being in use with substance or activity
  • Deviant behavior due to substance or activity or due to association with substance or activity.

Risk Factors – There are said to be three risk factors leading to addiction. These are :

  • Dose – How much is the quantity of substance or amount of activity consumed
  • Frequency – How often is the interaction with the substance or activity
  • Duration – For what duration of time this interaction is going on

The larger the dose, more frequent the interaction and longer the duration of interaction, there is more probability of getting addicted.

How to identify addiction
There are certain warning indicators about addictions in addition to obvious engagements. These are more pronounced in substance abuse addictions. Some of them are:

  • Excess or lack of energy.
  • Abnormally fast or slow movements
  • Sudden mood changes, restlessness.
  • Excess or lack of speech
  • Excess or lack of sleep
  • Abnormal eating habits
  • Sudden change in weight
  • Peculiar behavior like abnormal clothing
  • Preference for loneliness
  • Deviant or Antisocial behavior
  • Unusual calmness or irritability

Causes of addiction
There are two major causes of why someone gets into a state of addiction and why he or she finds it difficult to come out. These are:

  1. Physical dependence – Physical dependence is the state which is characterized by certain physical discomforts and symptoms when the person does not take the substance. It can be restlessness, pain, soreness, difficulty in breathing, lethargy, disturbed body functions etc.
  2. Psychological dependence  – Psychological dependence is the state which is characterized by certain mental discomforts like craving for substance or activity, irritability, disturbance in sleep, anguish etc.

Many theories have been proposed to explain the basis of addictions. Some are :

  1. Pleasure theory – According to this theory addictions are due to learned behavior to seek pleasure and avoid discomfort.
  2. Disease theory – According to this theory addiction is a disease due to neurochemical changes in brain.
  3. Genetic theory – According to this theory addictions are due to genetic factors and run in families.
  4. Circumstantial theory – According to this theory addictions are due to circumstances faced by the person and this includes easy availability of substance, having plenty of free time, presence of role model etc.
  5. Other theories like experimental theory (experience by experiment), opponent effect theory (opposing effect of substance), allostatic theory (stability through change), cultural theory (effect of culture), moral theory (lack of morals),  habit theory (habit formation), rational theory (rational response).

Conquering addiction
Most important thing to remember about addictions is that it can be treated. There is no need to feel devastated or hopeless. It is a disease and needs proper treatment and management. There are certain necessary elements which are important in making the treatment a successful one. These are:

  • Do not feel threatened, accept it as treatable disease.
  • Get aware about it, read literature but only authentic one.
  • Get support of family, friends or special organizations
  • Get correct treatment
  • Follow healthy lifestyle
  • Eat healthy diet and exercise regularly
  • Work on holistic personality development
  • Get help on stresses of life
  • Maintain positive social life
  • Get engaged in constructive activities like art, music etc.
  • Do not give up due to slips

Acupuncture management of addictions
Acupuncture has come up as one of the most effective and promising treatment method of addictions. It has some unique advantages which are difficult to achieve otherwise. Ear acupuncture is a specialized branch of acupuncture which is getting very popular in treatment of addictions. Some of its established benefits are:

  • It removes craving and reduces withdrawal symptoms. This is said to be done by release of certain internal endorphins in brain which have positive effect.
  • It improves body’s physiological functions. This leads to better sleep, better digestion, better breathing, better blood circulation etc.
  • It detoxifies by enhancing elimination
  • It improves energy levels.
  • It gives mental calmness but does not make numb. It helps in achieving emotional balance.
  • It causes internal homeostasis leading to better internal environment in body.
  • It helps in smooth recovery and prevents relapses.

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