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What is addiction?

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The World Health Organization (WHO) defines addiction as a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual illness.


The use of substances or compulsive behaviors linked to addiction modifies the brain´s structure and functioning.

Addiction´s characteristics are:


·Primary: it is not a consequence of any other illness.

·Chronic: it is maintained over time.

·Progressive: it causes cumulative physical, emotional and social changes, which grow stronger as abusing of substances continues.

·Deadly: it can cause fatal consequences on the addict and on the people around him/her.





Addiction not only destroys the life of the addict himself, but also the life of their loved ones. We estimate every addict´s conduct affects at least three other persons, be it those of their parents, partner, bothers/sisters, friends, work mates or his/her boss.  



The physical aspect of the illness occurs when the individual develops an “allergy”. This so called “allergy” causes the individual not to be able to stop and triggers what we call a craving.



Many people nowadays are allergic to seafood, to wheat, to milk, among other foods. The difference is that while a person who is allergic to seafood shall never take it again, an addict would take it over and over again not even worrying about its consequences, whether those may be losing their job, family, money or even their own life; this is the mental aspect of the illness. Thus, both aspects – mental, which causes craving, and physical, which causes allergy – make up the obsession of repeating the use of substances/behaviors.


One of addiction´s main characteristics are out of control episodes and distortion of thought, moreover a denial of being an addict or even being aware of its consequences.



1.Addiction can result in premature death.

2.It may be a response to and a cause of other mental and physical problems.

3.It has an adverse impact on the neuro-chemistry of the brain.

4.It often co-exists with other disorders.

5.It can come to completely consume individuals, families and communities.

6.It may affect all kinds of cultures, social classes and ethnic origins.

7.It can prove very difficult to free oneself from addiction.


Recovery is possible. People who have nearly been destroyed by addiction are still able to find a path to a new life. Watch recovery testimonies.

Treatment and recovery


An appropriate treatment can stop the degenerative and destructive process of addiction on both patient and his family. Addicts can start their recovery process, as well as their surrounding family, who can begin their own recovery one. By doing so, they ease the way for the addict person to quit using, to live without the use of drugs or compulsive behaviors, and to better everyone´s living standards.

Understanding Addiction


Addiction results from an attempt to self-regulate the way a person feels or experiences life by the use of substances or behaviors.


It is driven by an urge to feel something different to whatever is currently felt. People who use drugs or who have compulsive behaviors feel comfort, relieve, calm, relax, stimulation and so on. The fact that initially it is very effective in changing mood, perception and experience is what gives people the powerful incentive to repeat the experience.  Through repetition, the habitual behavior that characterizes addiction signals the beginning of a relationship with the substance or behavior that becomes all consuming.

While the person starts out feeling in control of their choice to use substances or behaviors, as the relationship intensifies it becomes self-perpetuating. In effect the addiction is now in control. As it takes over, brain functions adapt accordingly, which partly helps to explain the difficulty of giving up. 



However it started, there comes a point when an addicted person´s consumption continues simply because they are addicted. It is truly a vicious circle. Anxious to stave off the very uncomfortable feelings that arise from not consuming, (or going into withdrawal), they feel compelled to continue. They engage in a desperate but futile struggle to get control over addiction.

As addiction takes hold of body, mind and spirit, the harmful consequences to self and others like families multiply and intensify. Yet people find it increasingly difficult to face up to this and to stop. Even though it remains available to them, they seem to lose the ability to make that choice and to act on it.




One of the defining characteristics of addiction is that it continues despite mounting evidence of the harm suffered. This includes the very real risk of death. In fact, it is in the nature of addiction for the sufferer to invest in the self-delusion that things are not as bad as they really are.



Despite all this, the real possibility of recovery remains. It is important to encourage addicted people to recognize that help is available and to support them in accessing that help.


Stages of Addiction


The three most common stages of addiction are:


                        Experimentation – Use – Abuse - Dependency


A person begins using drugs or behaviors in an attempt to self-regulate the way he/she feels or experiences life, or just to “feel good”. Then the person needs the same routine or the same drug every time, until he/she reaches a point where that does not make him/her “feel good” that long.


Furthermore, the illness of addiction acts upon a person in four different ways:


·Physically: compulsive craving when near the substance

·Mentally: obsession with the substance and distortion of reality

·Emotionally: hypersensitivity or mental block; difficulty for controlling emotions.

·Spiritually: lack of spiritual connection with one´s self and with others.








The 2015 Spanish Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction report illustrates how most substances using begin before the age of 24:


·Age of 16: alcohol/tobacco

·Age of 18: cannabis

·Age of 19: volatile inhalants

·Age of 20: amphetamines and hallucinogens

·Age of 21: ecstasy, powder cocaine and heroine

·Age of 23: cocaine base




Different autonomous regions show similar profile statistic.


Minnesota Model 12 Step Treatment is one of the best options for those who have drinking or drug problems.


A recent study based on five national data base (using a sample of 1582 individuals) linked number of days of abstinence to AA meetings attendance. 77% of the participants remained abstinent over a three-month period; 74% did so over a fifteen-month period.

A follow up (>5 years) of teenagers undergoing Minnesota Model treatment showed significantly lower rates of substance using and disorders versus the whole of the control group.

In this regard, another study carried out with over 9.000 participants revealed that people who attend mutual-help meetings are fully aware of the importance of remaining clean form drugs and alcohol as part of their recovery.



Last, this model has proven to be effective in treating behavior addiction. A study showed a remarkable improvement in half the patients six months after ending treatment. Furthermore, almost 30% of them remained abstinent.



Just as the effect of each kind of drug/behavior is different, so is its addictive potential



The side effects of addiction are all destructive for a person’s life. Work becomes unpleasant and unbearable. This is because work does not reinforce brain´s reward system as drugs do.

From here on, drugs or addictive behaviors become necessary for the user to feel slightly close to “normal” and to cope with his daily life routine. An addict´s life consists of using to be able to live. During highly active addiction stages, user´s functionality is cut to the minimum. The addict feels lonely, ashamed and wishing to die, or at a hospital or in prison.


Our experience tells us the inability for a person to have healthy relationships with others or to manage his/her own feelings in a reasonable way lies within the illness of addiction.


All of the above result on addiction affecting exponentially all family members. On average, every addict affects at least three of their family members, changing the relationship among them due to negative attitudes and emotions. Family members themselves share these emotions with the addict and may in some cases prevent recovery:


Emotions of the addict vs. family member/friend →

Family members can end up having troubles of their own (work, relationships, obsession, etc.)

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