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Drug Addiction

Drugs are used due to the pleasant state that is induced by the brain when they are taken. This pleasant state temporarily relieves the user of feelings of distress – for example, anxiety, anger and sadness. Abuse of drugs cause long-lasting adaptive structural changes in the brain which in turn leads to increased tolerance of the drug, physical dependence, craving, lack of self-control and decreased ability to make rational decisions. This inevitably leads to further use. Withdrawal from the drug causes an increase in need to use again in order to avoid the physical and psychological effects of withdrawal. 

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Alcohol Addiction

Alcoholism is not the behaviour of someone who is weak willed or bad in some way. It is a primary disease which has both chemical and biological factors. It is progressive, chronic and fatal. An alcoholic cannot just stop drinking on their own using will-power or by being prevented access to alcohol by family or friends. The obsession and compulsion to drink is so strong that nothing will stand in the alcoholic’s way to have that drink. Family life, friends, jobs, finances, spiritual beliefs, health and well-being will continue to be put aside until the point that the alcoholic is willing to accept that they have a problem and seeks help.

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Process Addiction and Treatment

Scientific research increasingly understands the nature of behavioural or process addictions. Drugs and alcohol change the brains mood by increasing the levels of chemicals (neurotransmitters by which nerve cells communicate with each other) in the reward or pleasure pathways in the brain. Process addictions also increase the level of these same chemicals in the brain – those controlling thought and volitional (decision making) behaviour.

In the same way as taking a mood altering drug, having sex or ‘falling in love’, over feeding oneself (bingeing on food), spending money or gambling stimulates the pleasure pathways in the brain, causing feelings of euphoria and excitement. In the same way that on-going use of drugs leads to dependency, so does the repetition and compulsion to act out with specific pleasurable activities.

Process addictions can create as much desperation as drug or alcohol addiction. It can lead to the same types of unmanageability in one’s life, destroying family relationships, jobs and careers, physical health, and causing anxiety and depression.


Gambling Addiction

Compulsive Gambling is also considered a process addiction. For many the use of lottery cards, slot machines, horse racing, casinos etc. is a recreational activity. However, for some it develops into a compulsion, which results in the loss of entire livelihoods and families. As loss of control over gambling develops, with increased
pre-occupation and compulsion, denial plays a very important role in the mind of the gambling addict. As the denial increases, so do the financial risks taken. As the gambler moves through an addictive cycle he/she will experience increased anxiety culminating in severe stress, only relieved by the euphoria of a win.

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Sex Addiction

Sex addiction is a far cry from the glamorous reports about movie stars who have been unfaithful to their spouses. Sex addicts are often overwhelmed with guilt and shame and can become full of self-loathing. Often these feelings result from childhood sexual abuse or other forms of untreated post-traumatic stress. A cycle of addictive behaviour develops in an attempt to avoid unbearable feelings. Intervention is required to stop the addiction cycle and abstinence around the acting out behaviour needs to be put in place for a length of time.  

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Co Dependency

Co-dependency is a behavioural addiction in which the co-dependent compulsively engages with, and is pre-occupied with a relationship, which is one sided, emotionally destructive and often abusive in nature. When one
or more members of the family are particularly attention seeking, the co-dependent member of the family will sacrifice their own needs in order to care for the needy person. This pattern is usually repeated in later relationships and the co-dependent will often unconsciously choose a specific partner – one who is perceived
to need rescuing, often from drug or alcohol addiction.

In-patient treatment at Ixande is effective for the co-dependent as it provides a safe place where a focus on self is gently encouraged and any co-dependent behaviours are gently exposed. To develop a new sense of self and improve self-esteem, the co-dependent begins a journey of recovery as they begin to accept that they are powerless over other people and that their behaviour has been unhelpful for all involved. New ways of relating are learnt and recovery begins with the help of appropriate support groups.

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If you or someone you love needs help, please contact us for information and assistance.

Call: +27 21 761 7348 


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