The statistics are startling. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 19.9 million adults needed substance abuse treatment in 2016.
With the opioid crisis growing in 2017, much more will also need treatment for their addictions. But substance abuse isn’t the only way to define an addiction. Addictions can also be behaviors, including gambling and engaging in behavior to sustain an eating disorder.
“Certain types of addictions are more powerful than others,” said 9NEWS Psychologist Dr. Max Wachtel. “There are behavioral addictions that we do, shopping, gambling, sex addiction, things like that where it’s a behavior. And then there is the drug or alcohol or food addiction, where there’s also a physiological component to it.”
Dr. Wachtel says that addictions with physiological components can be harder for some people to overcome. A genetic component can also make a person more likely to become an addict.
“Addiction is definitely genetic. There’s a huge environmental component to it as well,” said Wachtel. “If you have close family members who are addicted to whatever it is, you are at higher risk as well.”
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He says the signs of addiction include a change in attitude and, often times, finances which are consumed by the addiction.
“There’s a lot of isolation. The person just kind of drops out of society, in order to feed the addiction,” Wachtel said. “There’s usually a lot of lying that goes along with it. A lot of secrecy, sneaking around, trying to come up with excuses.”
Dr. Wachtel says that treatment for any addiction often involves therapy and the reality of dealing with problems that the addiction caused.
“When you stop doing this addictive behavior, all of the problems that you were causing from the years of doing that behavior, those don’t go away,” he said. “You still have to deal with all that stuff. Only, you’re sober now. And you realize what a huge mess you’ve made of things. That is really hard for most people to deal with.”
Wachtel says—for that reason—support groups are important. Support groups exist for a wide range of both behavioral and substance addictions.
Dr. Wachtel says, while many loved ones may assume that an intervention is an answer for addictive behavior, the strategy doesn’t work for all addict.
“The person has to be ready to make a change. And even before they make a change, they have to be willing to admit they have a problem.”
All this week, 9NEWS will be featuring stories of people who have beaten addiction and are in the process of recovery. We will also offer resources to anyone who needs help.
A call-in line will be open from 6:30am-8:45am Tuesday-Friday. The phone number will be given out on 9NEWS Mornings, once the phone lines are staffed and open.