Behavioral science experts believe that all entities capable of stimulating a person can be addictive; and whenever a habit changes into an obligation, it can be considered as an addiction. Researchers believe that there are a number of similarities as well as some differences between chemical addiction and process addiction.
Chemical addiction or dependency is characterized by the repeated, uncontrollable use of alcohol and/or drugs in a way that threatens the individual's physical, mental, and well-being parts of the body, as well as the physical safety and emotional well-being of those around him or her.
Common chemical addictions include but are not limited to: Alcohol, Caffeine, Club Drugs, Cannabis, Opioids, Tobacco & Nicotine
Process addictions refer to behaviors and activities that can be addictive for some individuals. The idea behind this concept is that the behavior is rewarded by the brain as it activates certain chemicals that produce pleasant feelings, reinforcing that behavior and making it more likely that the person will engage in that process again. The chemicals released by the brain’s reward center are similar or identical to those released when a person consumes a drug, therefore causing a kind of addiction.
Many people have heard of at least a couple different types of process addictions, even if they haven’t heard the term. Common process addictions include but are not limited to: Gambling, Video Gaming, Food, Exercise, Shopping, Sex & Porn
An alcohol use disorder is a long-term brain condition where an individual can't stop or control their drinking despite negative consequences in social, occupational, academic areas.
If an individual chooses to drink, the recommendation is no more than one drink a day for females, and no more than two drinks a day for males.
If you or someone you know is consuming an unhealthy amount of alcohol they are encouraged to reach out and ask for help. Speak to a qualified professional who can teach you/them the first steps needed in order to over come an alcohol use disorder.
(Centre for Disease Control & Prevention, 2019)
After alcohol, cannabis is the most widely use substance in Canada. Contrary to popular belief, individuals can become addicted to cannabis. Continued, frequent, and heavy cannabis use can cause physical dependency and addiction. About 50-60% of individuals with an addiction to cannabis have some sort of underlying mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, or schizophrenia.
The THC in Cannabis can impair the ability to drive safely and operate equipment. It can also increase the risk of falls and other accidents.
Thinking about using Cannabis? Please become informed here.
(Government of Canada, 2019)
Caffeine is a bitter, white substance that occurs naturally in more than 60 plants, including coffee beans, tea leaves, and cacao pods. Caffeine is considered to be both a food additive and a drug. Common sources of caffeine are found in coffee, tea, pop, and chocolate.
Excessive caffeine intake for the average person is more than four or five cups of strong tea or coffee per day.
To successfully reduce your caffeine intake, gradually reduce the amount of coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks you have each day. Begin to substitute cold caffeinated beverages with water. Water is a healthy choice and satisfies the need for drinking a liquid. Water also naturally flushes caffeine from your body and keeps you hydrated.
Gradually reducing your caffeine consumption over a period of 2 to 3 weeks will help you successfully change your habit without causing withdrawal symptoms.
Club drugs are illicit drugs that are typically used at parties, nightclubs, and raves. Examples include flunitrazepam (roofies), GHB (liquid ecstasy), ketamine (special K), LSD (acid), MDMA (ecstasy or molly), and methamphetamine (meth).
Club drugs contain a combination of agents that affect your brain and central nervous system. All of them can lead individuals to make choices or do things you wouldn’t otherwise do. Often, these types of drugs are mixed with alcohol, which can be particularly dangerous.
Everyone reacts differently to club drugs. Symptoms vary depending on the person, the drug, and the dose of the drug. Side effects often appear 10 to 20 minutes after use.
(Continuum Recovery Centre, 2020; Family Doctor, 2019)
Tobacco and vaping devices contain nicotine, an ingredient that can lead to addiction, which is why many individuals who smoke or vape find it difficult to quit.
The nicotine in any tobacco product readily absorbs into the blood when a person uses it. Upon entering the blood, nicotine immediately stimulates the adrenal glands to release the hormone epinephrine (adrenaline). Epinephrine stimulates the central nervous system and increases blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate. As with drugs such as cocaine and heroin, nicotine activates the brain’s reward circuits and also increases levels of the chemical messenger dopamine, which reinforces rewarding behaviours.
Although nicotine is addictive, most of the severe health effects of tobacco use comes from other chemicals. Tobacco smoking can lead to lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. It increases the risk of heart disease, which can lead to stroke or heart attack. Smoking has also been linked to other cancers, leukemia, cataracts, Type 2 Diabetes, and pneumonia. That being said, smokeless tobacco increases the risk of cancer, especially mouth cancers
Both behavioural treatments and medications can help people quit smoking, but the combination of medication with counselling is more effective than either alone.
(National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2020)
A class of drugs naturally found in the opium poppy plant. Some prescription opioids are made from the plant directly, and others are made by scientists in labs using the same chemical structure.
Opioids are often used as medicines because they contain chemicals that relax the body and relieve pain moderate to severe pain.
Types of Opioids are Vicodin, Oxycodone, Codeine, Fentanyl, Morphine, and Percocet.
Opioid use can stem from a combination of conditions, such as health conditions, chromic pain, lifestyle factors, and environmental conditions.
Put it in writing. Making a list of the reasons to curtail your substance use—such as feeling healthier, sleeping better, or improving your relationships—can motivate you.
Set a goal for reducing or stopping use. Set a limit on how much you will use.
Keep a diary of your substance use. For three to four weeks, keep track of every time you use. Include information about what and how much you used as well as where. Compare this to your goal. If you’re having trouble sticking to your goal, discuss it with your doctor or counsellor.
Don’t keep substance of choice in your house. Having no substances in your home can help limit your use.
Choose substance-free days. Decide not to use substance a day or two each week. You might want to abstain for a week or a month to see how you feel physically and emotionally.
Watch for peer pressure. Practice ways to say no politely. You do not have to use just because others are, and you shouldn’t feel obligated to accept every time you’re offered to. Stay away from people who encourage you to use.
Ask for support. Cutting down on your opioid use may not always be easy. Let friends and family members know that you need their support. Your doctor, counsellor, or therapist may also be able to offer help; several medications are available to help curb the urge to use opioids.
Guard against temptation. Steer clear of people and places that make you want to use drugs.
(Centre for Behavioural Health Statistics and Quality, Harvard Health, Statistics Canada)
Engaging in physical activity is healthy in order to sustain or improve health and fitness. However, exercise can become unhealthy when individuals begin to become obsessed with physical activity. This is often occurs as a result of body image disorders and eating disorders. Individuals with exercise addictions display traits similar to those of other substance use disorders, such as:
Many people exercise because it releases endorphins and dopamine. These are the same neurotransmitters released during drug use. An individual who is addicted to exercise feels reward and joy when exercising. When individuals stop exercising, these neurotransmitters are not released, therefore the go away and people have to exercise more to trigger the chemical release.
In most cases, self-control is necessary to treat exercise addiction. An individual must acknowledge that they have a problem and take steps to control exercise activity.
Some individuals will switch to new forms of exercise or moderate their current workouts. They may need to stop exercising for a period of time to gain control of the desire to exercise.
Oniomania, also known as shopping addiction, is a behavioural addiction that involves compulsive buying as a way to feel good and avoid negative feelings. Similar to other behavioural addictions, shopping addiction can take over as a preoccupation that leads to problems in other areas of an individuals life. As with other addictions, those who over-shop become preoccupied with spending and devote significant time and money to the activity.
Impulse buying is an unplanned purchase that happens on the spur of the moment in reaction to the immediate desire to have something you see in a shop. Impulse buying is a little different from compulsive buying, which is typically more pre-planned as a way of escaping negative feelings. Individuals with a shopping addiction may engage in both types of addictive buying.
Overcoming any addiction requires learning alternative ways of managing stress and distress. Also, developing your own spending plan can help guide the purchases you make. There are many ways to accomplish this on your own, but often individuals benefit from counselling or therapy.
Click here for tips to avoid overspending.
Problem gambling is not just about losing money. Gambling problems can affect a person’s whole life. Gambling is a problem when it:
Specialized counselling is always a good option for gambling problems. In addition, telephone counselling and a self-help guides are also available online. Credit and debt counselling services, family counselling, and other resources may also be helpful.
The consumption of food is normally enjoyable to humans. It contains protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, water and minerals. Like many addictive substances, highly palatable foods trigger feel-good brain chemicals such as dopamine. Once people experience pleasure associated with increased dopamine transmission in the brain's reward pathway from eating certain foods, they quickly feel the need to eat again.
A Nutritionist, Counsellor or Doctor who is educated about food addiction may be able to help you break the cycle of compulsive overeating. Further, there are a growing number of 12 steps programs readily available for those who struggle with over-eating.
Sex addiction refers to a range of behaviours that are done in excess and significantly impact one’s life in a negative way. Addiction to porn is considered to be a type of sex addiction and can manifest itself differently than other types of sex addiction. Specifically, porn addiction is a process of addiction which includes a compulsive behaviour patten where an individual engages in an activity despite negative consequences.
People may use porn to combat sexual curiosity, loneliness, poor self-esteem, lack of self-confidence, attempt to relieve emotional pain, anger and sexual education .
Continued porn use can have profound psychological effects, such as feelings of shame, inadequacy, and emotional distress.
If you can relate to the symptoms mentioned above, or know somebody who meets these criteria, do not hesitate to ask for help. Call to speak to a treatment support specialist or counsellor who can provide you with more information.
A gaming disorder is the problematic and compulsive use of video games that results in significant impairment to an individual's ability to function in various life domains over a prolonged period of time.
Video games can become so addictive because they are designed in a way to challenge people to continue playing but not enough that the player will give up.
(Psychguides.com, Web MD)
Red Deer College Counselling Services
100 College Boulevard
PO Box 5005
Red Deer, AB T4N 5H5
Counselling Services Hours
Monday-Friday: 8:30 am - 4:30 pm
*extended hours on Wednesday until 6 pm
Closed Saturday, Sunday,
and all Statutory Holidays
Red Deer College recognizes that our campus is situated on Treaty 7 land, the traditional territory of the Blackfoot, Tsuu T’ina and Stoney Nakoda peoples, and that the central Alberta region we serve falls under Treaty 6, traditional Métis, Cree and Saulteaux territory. We honour the First Peoples who have lived here since time immemorial, and we give thanks for the land where RDC sits. This is where we will strive to honour and transform our relationships with one another.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).