Almost as old as mankind is the desire to alter our perceptions of life by taking psychotropic substances. Shamans try to put themselves in an altered state of mind by taking intoxicating herbs or mushrooms. People who can no longer stand their environment or their living situation try to forget their situation by consuming legal or illegal drugs. As old as the problem is the attempt of society to regulate or prohibit consumption. What is addiction? Who is at risk? Where is the way out?
There is no clear answer to why one becomes dependent or addicted and the other does not. A convincing theory of addiction is still lacking. But neurobiological research has found morphines, a group of psychoactive substances produced by the body, which can trigger addictive processes. There are also many chemical compounds that can easily be made in the lab that have the same effects. They change the metabolism and influence our feelings. They belong to the so-called psychotropic drugs and are actually used in medications or legal and illegal drugs.
People want to enjoy, and have the right to do so. It is God’s will that we can be happy, that we have enjoyment in life. There is a very specific area of the brain where feelings of pleasure arise. Such feelings can be evoked by parental love, sex, favorite activities but also simply by eating and drinking. Addictive substances activate this part of the brain as well.
What is Addiction and Dependency?
Anyone who no longer wants to or cannot do without the lustful effects of an activity or a drug is dependent or addicted. The enjoyment is then worth more to him than his health, his relationships and even his life. The desire for drunkenness, for extasy, for forgetting, for taking off, for getting lost and for getting out of everyday life is overwhelming. Those who are dependent are no longer free. He no longer has a choice and is dominated by the urge to induce or avoid certain feelings and moods.
Dependence and addiction have almost the same meaning. The dependence describes the medical side, the addiction the emotional, social side. The WHO speaks only of dependency.
Who Becomes Addicted?
A strong trigger to try is certainly curiosity and willingness to take risks. Then it depends on what experience you had when you first took it. Do you feel ashamed after being drunk, or do you finally feel like you belong to the gang? Did you feel sick after the first puff while smoking, or did you feel relaxed? Are you told to try again, are you being teased?
Addiction researchers speak of social inheritance. Children and adolescents are therefore significantly influenced in their behavior. This can be a sickening family dynamics, unsatisfied relationships, performance pressure, disorientation, unsatisfied longings, exclusion, inhumane living conditions and unsatisfactory leisure activities. Advertising and trends can be triggers, as can irresponsible prescriptions for drugs that are potentially addictive.
There are also many sensitive people among addicts, imaginative, creative, vulnerable. We know a lot of dependent artists. People with unresolved problems tend to take psychotropic drugs to improve performance and well-being. The most important effect is the euphoria, which makes pressure (apparently) easier to bear.
Another important factor in addiction is accessibility. No addiction without drugs. The dose, the form of consumption, the creation of habitual patterns and the development of tolerance play important roles.
Phases and Course of Addiction
The dependency does not fall from the sky. Nobody suddenly becomes addicted. It’s a gradual process. It usually begins with a positive experience or effect of the drug. The affected person thinks he has everything under control. He believes to be able to stop at any time. Unfortunately, this is the case for the minority. It is much more likely that a loss of control occurs quickly. You get used to the addictive behavior. There is an evasive attitude towards the environment. Then comes the chronic phase where you can no longer get out and also do not want to. In the end you want to get out, but you have no willpower to do it anymore, at least not alone.
Types of Addiction
There are substance-related forms of addiction. This include legal substances such as alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, medication, chemical drugs, natural drugs, and sniff substances; or illegal drugs like cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy, LSD, heroin and many others. The number of addicts on legal drugs is much greater than that of illegal ones. But both make physically and psychologically dependent.
The non-substance-related dependencies are caused by any excessive behavior that is carried out without measure: gambling, internet, television, work, shopping, bulimia, running and much more.
Help with Dependencies
Those who are dependent are caught in a vicious circle and need help. But you cannot free an addict against his will. Any attempt to help him will fail until he is ready to become free. You can, however, give him impulses. Liberation is then just as much a process as the emergence of addiction, and not a sudden event. Often it has to be worked on for the entire life. Alcoholics Anonymous are known for this. Their program is also a spiritual program that includes the whole family. It is also about spiritual growth.
Self-help groups are very good establishments. You support each other, encourage each other, seek solutions to problems together and you know that you are not fighting alone.
Prevention – the Best Protection Against Addictions
Dependencies begin in everyday life – prevention too. I was very shocked by the book: “We Children from Bahnhof Zoo”. There a girl describes the miserable living conditions in which she had to grow up, how one possibility of meaningful leisure time after the other was taken away from her. She found no support in the family. The friends were just as bad off. There was no sense of achievement, no satisfaction, no real love, no purpose in life and hardly any joy.
This is exactly where we have to start. Do we take time for our children, our partners? Do we design our home and our surroundings to be comfortable and pleasant? Am I satisfied with the choice of my school, my education, my profession? Do I have an active, satisfying leisure activity? Do I practice meaningful sport and exercise? Am I involved in social institutions? Do I participate in clubs? I love? Am i loved?
Do I know where I come from, what I live for and where I am going? Answering these W questions is vital. They represent a great protection against dependencies. There is actually a dependency that is vital and very important: the dependence on a loving God. If the image of God as a loving Father has been buried, then you should work on finding it again. In a fear-free atmosphere of being accepted by God and fellow human beings, there is no room for dependency, and a dependent can find trust again, trust in himself and in his environment.
Esther Neumann studied Nutrition at the University of Vienna. Since then she served as an author for the health magazine “Leben und Gesundheit” and conducted health lectures in various locations of Austria.