As far as the term ‘Addiction’ is concerned, most people consider that it as a condition of weakness or a sign of impaired morality. The person is believed to be taking substances like alcohol, cigarette for enjoyment. And this behavior of the person becomes a cause of disturbance to the family and friends.

From the medical point of view, a part of these beliefs can be considered true. But in the backdrop of this behavior, a lot of things are happening with the person. On taking a proper history of the person, the intake of substance starts because of getting pleasure or experimentation. Gradually, the intake increases to such a level that the person becomes dependent on that substance. Even if someone tries to stop them, they don’t find it easy to limit that intake.

There are many underlying things due to which the intake increases. Some people take substance to relieve anxiety which they feel in daily life. When they find that alcohol or cigarette decreases their anxiety and they are able to carry their activities, they continue their intake. Similarly some people try to relieve bad feelings or depression through substance. Others take substance under peer pressure or to be a part of a group.

If we see around us, we can find such stories. But what initially relieves doesn’t help in later stages. The person won’t get relief in the same amount of substance which was helping earlier. So, to get the same effect, they gradually increase their intake. Slowly, their body becomes dependent on the substance and they are compelled to take it. Otherwise, they would get symptoms which are so disturbing that they find it better to take substance rather than stopping it.

Here comes the role of family and friends. In our society, a kind of stigma is attached to this behavior that it is not even considered an illness. The sufferer also finds it difficult to accept it for it is considered a sign of weakness. They don’t come for treatment or don’t continue treatment because of the negative comments from their closed ones.

To conclude, I want to convey that this problem is pretty common in the general population. The main concern is that it is very frequently ignored and thus progress uncontrollably. Even if coming to attention, the person having this problem doesn’t get proper treatment. So, if we want to help our society, our friends and relatives, we must understand that substance dependence is REAL and POTENTIALLY CURABLE. What is needed is just proper recognition and treatment by professionals trained to manage this illness.

Dr. Ankit Chaudhary

MBBS, MD (Psychiatry)