In this land of plenty, a conservative estimate calls 4 out of 10 Americans "addicts." Abused substances include sugar,
caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, prescription drugs and street drugs including pot. Addiction can serve us well once we
recognize that substance abuse is a way to obscure honest, peaceful, self-discovery. Using, of any addictive substance,
gives us the temporary illusion of control, excitement and perfection. In recovery we discover, often to our great relief,
that we're not perfect, that we need intimacy, and that integrity is more appealing than denial. The addict is
self-obsessed; living for the next "fix." The addict is crisis oriented; using panic as a way of feeling alive while avoiding
meaningful contact with others. In recovery we let go of our need to control in favor of serenity and clarity.
Scientists from different schools of thought have attempted to explain addiction. Some say the culprit is a genetic
lack of the feel-good, sleep-inducing neurotransmitter serotonin. Others say early brain cell damage begets lack of
feedback inhibition for normal cravings, driving them out of balance. For example, non-addictive persons who eat
some sugar will be satisfied (in terms of simple carbohydrates) for several hours. The addictive person, by contrast, will
crave even more sugar after consuming a moderate serving. This may be due, in addicts, to a lack of endorphin
stimulation when a healthy physiologic craving is satisfied. Other researchers and physicians contend that addiction is
largely a response to depression. Addiction is major problem in this country, whatever the cause. Sugar addiction is
perhaps the most insidious because the substance is so cheap, so available and so universally regarded as a "treat."
Addiction spells confusion. For example, street drugs are "bad" while prescription drugs are "good" despite the statistics
which show that in any recent year death due to complications from prescription drug overdose is 50 times more likely
than death from street drugs. Nevertheless, IV "recreational" drug addicts are the long-term reservoir for AIDS and the
vast proportion of criminal activity among teenagers is due to the cocaine trade. Caffeine and alcohol and nicotine
are socially condoned although they contribute to a substantial percentage of hospitalizations in the U.S.
If you ingest white sugar daily, or drink alcohol daily or have an immediate family member who is alcoholic, or feel
depressed frequently you may have a problem with addiction without realizing it. Please take a good look; the crucial
initiation of breaking free from addiction is recognizing the substance abuse and seeking help to maintain the
commitment to quit.
Addiction results from a multifactorial network of choices; the treatment approach must address not only the physical,
but the mental and emotional (spiritual) as well. One reason the 12-Step programs (Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics
Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Spenders Anonymous, Adult Children of Alcoholics, etc.) are so successful is that
they are free of charge and thus require only the commitment of the participant for attendance. Sometimes people
need stronger measures to kick their habit at the beginning. But quitting per se is not so difficult; the trick is staying quit.
Many addicts have incurred so many physical and mental changes that they need to get their fix merely to sustain
homeostasis. In other words withdrawal can be very rough. And the better prepared we are for withdrawal, whether
it be from inhaled crack or chocolate, the better we will be able to handle the rocky road back to recovery.