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Treating addictions

The term "addiction" covers an extremely wide field of psychopathology. Indeed, it is not limited to addiction to drugs but integrates non-substance addictions, such as addiction to work, to gambing, to a person, to sexuality, to physical exercise or to purchasing goods. Anorexia can also be considered as an addiction (an addiction to feeling empty). In delusional psychosis, delusion can become an addictive way of avoiding reality.


Treating addiction

There is an addiction if there is a dependence. This dependence appears through these symptoms:

- Tolerance. There is a need for markedly increased amounts of the substance or behaviour to achieve intoxication or the desired effect or markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance or behaviour.

- Withdrawal. Sometimes, the same (or closely related) substance or behaviour is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

- The substance is often taken or the behaviour is often done more or over a longer period than intended.

- There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use or behaviour.

- A great deal of time is spent in activities related to the behaviour or necessary to obtain the substance (such as visiting multiple doctors or driving long distances), use the substance (for example, chain-smoking), or recover from its effects.

- Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use or the behaviour.

- The substance use or the behaviour is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance or behaviour (for example, current cocaine use despite recognition of cocaine-induced depression or continued gambling despite a very bad financial situation).


If an addicted person has the desire to treat his or her addiction, the most appropriate treatment is twofold:

- It is a treatment of the addictive behavior. This can be achieved with the help of a cognitive-behavioral psychologist. Breaking the addiction can happen during a stay at a hospital or in a clinic. Participating in meetings with former addicts, such as the Alcoholics Anonymous can have an essential impact on the addiction.

- It is a treatment of the addiction's causes. This work aims at preventing relapses and at installing a state of lasting mental health. Psychoanalytic therapy or psychoanalysis are essential in this regard, because they help treat the depression that underlies the addictive behavior.