What is substance abuse addiction?


This reason is mostly due to the devastating and alarming consequences of the heroin abuse in Seychelles. The concept of drug addiction is quite foreign to most Seychellois but thanks to the prevailing situation some of us are finally grasping what it really means to be addicted to drugs.

Substance abuse can be defined as the excessive or addictive use of mood-altering drugs for non-medical purposes. Any drug that is used too long, for the wrong reasons and in excessive doses is being abused. It is possible to have a problem with drugs, but not display all the characteristics of addiction. This is known as "substance abuse," which means you engage in excessive substance usage -- that in turn results in health or social problems, but you aren't dependent on the drug and haven't fully lost control over its use.

Substance addiction or dependency can be defined simply as being a slave to drugs and/ or alcohol. It comprises two main components

1. Physical 
Tolerance necessitates that the person use in increasing amounts of the substance, in order to obtain the required emotional effect. His/her body becomes accustomed to the substance and continually adjusts to the excessive amounts. Therefore the amount that is consumed increases.

Over a period of time the substance will cause damage to the internal organs of the person, which will inevitably lead to the reversal of tolerance, in the advanced stages of dependency.

Withdrawal occurs when the body is deprived of a commodity to which it has become accustomed.  This range of physical symptoms necessitates that the person drinks or drugs again in order to prevent the escalation of the symptoms.

The stabilisation phase at this level might require at least five days or more but the longest struggle of addiction is the psychological components.

2. Psychological
The person has come to rely increasingly on the effects of alcohol or drugs to meet psychological needs and help him/her cope with the unpleasant aspects of their life and because of this dependence the person will use for relief and the frequency of the use will increase.

There are 3 main causes of addiction:
1. Genetics: Genetics play a significant role: having parents with alcoholism, for instance, makes you four times more likely than other children to become alcoholics. More than 60 percent of alcoholics have family histories of alcoholism.

2. Social environment: People who live, work or go to school in an environment in which the use of alcohol and other drugs is common - such as a workplace in which people see heavy drinking as an important way to bond with co-workers - are more likely to abuse drugs.

3. A combination of both Genetics and the social environment.

Other factors can also help to escalate this situation such as mental illness and traumas and other life trials and challenges. People faced with such situation can seek refuge and relief through substances and eventually get addicted.

In the field of social studies there are many theories put forward to understand or to explain this condition such as the moral theory which sees the addict as someone as bad, deviant with no control over self. The learning theory sees the addict as one who is using the behaviour as a reflex to address fear and anxiety while the behavioural theory explains it as the addict learning through external forces in its environment. Psychological theory stresses that the addict is using this behaviour as a response to factors in internal and external factors such as self punishment and parental hatred. Societal theory stresses that the addict is abusing substances due to inner tension and pressures of society. Level of acceptability of the use of the substance by society is also mentioned as a catalyst in this theory.

However the theory most adopted by experts on addiction is known as the disease concept theory. This theory which is also supported by WHO states that addiction is a disease and it has all the characteristic of the medical definition of a disease namely;
1. Agent that causes the disease : ( Aetiological agent) THC, ethanol.
2. Process of how the person comes into contact with the agent.  (Epidemiology) (Dependency Process).
3. What happens when contact is made; the numerous effect on the body Signs and symptoms.
4. Treatment Cure or manageability
It is to be noted that calling it a disease does not abdicate the responsibility of the addict to manage its consequences and eventually its treatment.

The symptoms of addiction are as follows:
• Tolerance, or needing more and more of a substance to achieve the same effect;
• Withdrawal, which involves unpleasant symptoms when the body is deprived of the substance, resulting in more frequent use to alleviate the negative symptoms;
• Taking the substance for a longer period of time or in larger amounts than originally intended;
• Unsuccessful desire to minimise use of the substance;
• Much time spent to obtain, use, or recover from the effects of the substance;
• Social, occupational, or recreational activities are missed because of substance abuse; and
• Substance use is continued despite knowledge of causing a problem.

This simple Questionnaire can give you an Idea if you are an addict
Cut: Have you ever felt the need to cut down on use?
Annoyed: Have you ever felt annoyed by someone criticising your use?
Guilty: Have you ever felt guilty about your use?
Eye opener   Have you ever felt the need for an eye opener?

If you answer yes to one of the four questions be concerned about your consumption of substances. If you answer with two yes it is crucial that you cut down your use and if you have three or four Yes then you need help.
Until now there is no physical cure for addiction. The best approach of treatment is total abstinence on the substance of abuse.
For drugs such as alcohol, heroin and cocaine the best approach is physical examination and stabilisation by a medical doctor and counselling in a residential or a day care counselling programme such as Centre Mont Royal or Centre D’acceuil de La Rosière.