Addiction destroys the lives of both addicts and their loved ones. Whether it’s the huge financial losses caused by gambling, the breakdown of a marriage caused by sex addiction, or the catastrophic effects that drugs like ice and heroine can have on the body – each addiction will inevitably take something precious away from you, or your partner, or your children. But is it possible that certain addictions are less harmful than others?
For most addictions, the amount you can indulge is regulated by how much your body can endure. There is only so much whisky, cocaine or heroine that you can consume before you end up in hospital and your addictive bender comes to an abrupt halt…at least for a period of time. It’s nature’s way of trying to protect you from long-term harm.
Gambling, however, is an addiction that is not subject to the body’s physical constraints. By the time addicts reach rock bottom, every aspect of their lives has been devastated which is why, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), one in five problem gamblers attempt to commit suicide. This is about twice the suicide rate of other addictions.
Gambling is an addiction that can be hidden from loved ones for months – sometimes years. Unlike substance abuse, there are no physical signs to warn others that someone is suffering. Gamblers are not stumbling along the street, slurring their words. They do not pass out in a pool of their own vomit. Their kidneys don’t fail. This means that they can find themselves deeper and deeper down the rabbit warren of their addiction until they lose everything or feel that taking their own life is the only answer.
The impact of gambling addiction on a person’s family life and relationships is monumental. Financial loss can result in homelessness, inability to pay for basic medical care and school fees for children, loss of assets and often the breakdown of marriages.
Similar to gambling addiction, sex addiction can be kept as a secret from partners and families for many years. It’s an addiction that many people refuse to admit is a problem – or feel too shameful to admit that they need help with. Unlike drugs or alcohol, sex addiction does not have any major consequences on the everyday functioning of addicts’ lives but that doesn’t mean that it leaves them unscathed. Sex addiction can result in deep feelings of guilt and shame for the addict – often leading to depression and behavioural problems. Sex addicts are more likely to contract Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and have unwanted pregnancies.
Unfortunately this addiction can have heartbreaking consequences for relationships – leading to divorce and breakups, as well as loss of custody of children. It can also lead to the transmission of STDs to partners.
Rich and poor, old and young – alcohol addiction affects people from all walks of life. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), more than 80,000 people die from alcohol-related deaths each year in the United States. It’s one of the most preventable causes of death.
Excessive consumption of alcohol has dire effects on the body especially the kidneys, liver, brain, pancreas and immune system. It can also have serious effects on unborn babies in the case of mothers who drink heavily through their pregnancies.
Those who are addicted to alcohol can often struggle to hold down their jobs and relationships. They are more likely to be abusive to their partners, involved in physical assault cases, and arrested by the police for disorderly behaviour. The likelihood of being involved in a car accident also increases for this addiction.
Alcohol addiction can cause huge emotional stress on families, particularly children who may end up having to pick up the pieces of care for parents who are too intoxicated to do the shopping or cook them dinner.
Drugs such as heroine, ice, methadone and cocaine can be extremely addictive. Along with the physical highs that they produce in the body, come severely painful lows – making withdrawing from these substances often impossible without professional and medical support. It’s not only the physical highs that are the reason many people use illicit drugs, substances like marijuana which are not as physically addictive as drugs like heroine, can cause emotional attachment – with users associating getting high with pleasure and that association becomes an addiction in itself which is hard to break.
The most devastating consequence of a drug like heroine is death from overdosing but hard drugs also can have serious long-term negative impacts on the health of users. There are also strong legal consequences of using or dealing illegal drugs that can result in arrest, fines and prison time.
For some people, prescriptions drugs can become an addiction. Medications like Xanax, Valium, Vicodin and OxyContin may have originally been prescribed to get them through a difficult time but they can then become a crutch, difficult to let go of even when life is less intense. Users may resort to buying these drugs on the black market which has risks – and overusing them to the detriment of their health.
How can an internet addiction be worse than other addictions? Obviously it is nowhere near as dangerous as some of the addictions we have already listed but being obsessed with your online life – creating online identities and virtual worlds where you prefer to live rather than spending time with loved ones – can be just as detrimental to your wellbeing and relationships. People with this addiction can become withdrawn, develop social stigmas, gain weight from lack of exercise, their personal hygiene can suffer which – in turn – can result in issues at work and home.
Everyone needs to eat to stay alive but some of us struggle to moderate our food intake – or become obsessed with it. Food addiction can lead to serious health issues such as obesity, increased risk of heart attack, diabetes or mental health issues such as anorexia and bulimia. These health issues impact everyday life and, if not treated, can become fatal.
Finding a way out of the darkness
Each addiction we have discussed has its own risks and challenges for sufferers. At the end of the day, if something – no matter what it is – starts controlling your life and you feel powerless to intervene, you are someone with an addiction who needs help.
The good news is that there are many programmes, such as The 12 Step Programme from Alcoholics Anonymous, which can assist addicts in breaking the cycle of excessive and repetitive consumption. In most cases, addiction is linked with deep-rooted emotional causes that need to be properly explored in order to gain long-term healing.
Professional rehabilitation centres, like The Dawn Rehab in Thailand, offer a range of treatment programmes that help people overcome their addictions. Whether you need therapy to work through your sex addiction or medical support to break a drug habit, our team of dedicated and caring staff will be able to walk you through the darkness and towards the light of recovery.