Emotional health

Why are we addicted?


How do you know you are addicted to something?


If you are dealing with three of the following situations it is likely you are addicted to some kind of substance/behaviour. These include tobacco, psychotropic drugs, alcohol, sugar, gambling, pornography, etc.  


1. Preoccupation with the substance: You spend a great deal of time in activities necessary to get the substance, taking the substance or recovering from its effects.

2. Unintentional overuse: You begin to find repeatedly that you have taken more of the substance than you initially intended. For example, you go to the pub for a pint and 6 pints later you are still there. You intended to gamble £20 and you already lost £200.

3. Tolerance: You feel that you need increasing amounts of it to produce the same desired effect. Your brain adapts to the drug so that you need more and more to get as high.

4. Withdrawal: Your body requires a certain level of the substance to be constantly present in order to function normally. You feel that when the level of a substance in your body drops you experience withdrawal symptoms – these can range from mild anxiety and tremor to acute psychosis and, in extreme cases, death.

5. Relief substance use: You are taking the substance to relieve withdrawal symptoms.

6. Persistent desire or efforts to control the substance/behaviour use: You tried repeatedly to quit, and repeatedly relapsed.

7. Impaired performance: The use of the substance caused you problems at home, at work and on social occasions

8. Abandoning important social occupational or recreational activities for the sake of drug use: Many of life’s major responsibilities – work, friendship, marriage, child-rearing – conflict with heavy drug use and you may be given up as a result.

9. Continued substance use despite serious substance-abuse related problems: Many people who continue to smoke suffer from cancer, emphysema, heart disease and other related conditions. Alcoholics know that consumption is destroying their families but they continue to drink.


Is it really dangerous to use drugs?

I was always against the war our society made on drugs. First, I never understood why someone consuming cannabis would be arrested and someone drinking alcohol wouldn’t. I used to look at all the problems people get themselves in, just to buy illegal drugs and I wanted this to end.  I wanted at least this facet of the problem to go away. So, what I would have liked to see was cannabis growing in all public gardens. Thus, no one would profit from selling them and no one would buy drugs. I also thought that the consumption would drop as it wouldn’t be associated with the underground culture and its attractiveness.

But when I started to study the effects of drugs (both legal and illegal) I started to see all the facets of the problem. The problem is not just the trading process and all the gang culture that brings. There are other real problems for the consumer.  



One of the problems is obviously the risks attached to drug-taking. These risks arise from the nature of the drug, how much is taken, what the drug is cut with – i.e. what the pure form is diluted with, besides the means of delivery. About 1,800 people a year die from misuse of illegal drugs – that’s an average of 5 people a day. Tragic as each of these deaths is, this figure must be balanced against the 300 people each day who die in the UK as a result of smoking – that is, about 100,000 people a year. About 82 people each day die from the effects of alcohol abuse. 64% of the population is overweight or obese with all the associated diseases.


Enriched substances

Cannabis (and other drugs) that is sold in 2021 is completely different from the cannabis that was sold in the 60s and 70s, the time of hippies and flowers in the hair. The fact is that the cannabis plants have been enriched in the psychotropic component and are now 10 times more concentrated than before but also less pure.


Our brain on addictions

Our brain is designed to give us peaks of satisfaction and ecstasy. These heights happen when we do something that promotes our survival. For example, chemicals like dopamine are released whenever we feel hungry and eat, whenever we are tired and rest, whenever we learn new skills, whenever we exercise our body, whenever we reach a goal, whenever we succeed in our sports, whenever we succeed at our academic challenges, whenever we find a solution to a problem, whenever we are admired by our peer group the brain releases these substances to make us feel good. Therefore, our body releases substances that naturally cause the same highs as drugs. We produce our own cocaine, alcohol, heroin or cannabis naturally.


When we take drugs from outside, like alcohol or cannabis, or even when we engage in certain behaviours, the chemicals our body would naturally release are turned down and progressively cease to be produced. Because the brain needs to balance the amount of this chemical circulating in our body. This is the problem. When we take drugs, we stop living – what motivates us, what gives us joy, what gives us passion and enthusiasm, what calms us, what gives us satisfaction and contentment is no longer produced naturally because it was replaced by the instant buzz that the drug or the behaviour gives. Addictions hijack a natural brain mechanism.


A false promises culture

We live in a culture of heights. It is sold to us that good living is to be in a constant euphoric state. We should have the best figure, the most expensive clothes, the showy car. We should be the Soul of the Party, in the constant exhibition, take holidays on the beach, look for happiness elsewhere … otherwise we are not living. What a fallacy this is! You can get the same pleasure in life by having a good conversation, by walking in the park with your kids, by reading a book, by just sitting and relaxing, by looking into the eyes of your lover, etc. The problem arises when people think they need drugs to engage in this frenetic culture where everything needs to be ready to use. Nobody realises that to have really heights in life we need to do the work, we need to work for it. The real height is when you are challenged and you cope with it when you have a goal and you achieve it, when do you the work and fulfil your needs. Drugs and harmful behaviours are a quick fix to your life. They lie to you and they convince you to believe you can fix your problems without working for them.  It is not possible.


The thing is you are not addicted to a substance or behaviour – you are addicted to the expectation you have about what you think the drug will do for you. And these expectations have huge lies.


Lies drugs are telling you:

Illusion: You feel out of control and stressed. Take this drug and you will be in control again.

Reality: Of course, you won’t – take the drug and you have less control over your life. Are you going to be able to pay your mortgage if you go to work drunk? Can you really control anything in your life?


Illusion: Drink this alcohol and you will have confidence.

Reality: You will have less genuine self-esteem because you feel you can’t perform without it.

Look, you can analyse the chemicals on the alcohol or on the drugs. You will not find any joke there, any song, anything that makes you the life and soul of the party. It is not in the constituents of the drug. It is inside of you.  If you do become social under the effects it is because of the social skill which is there all the time, inside of you.  You are doing it, not the alcohol. What you have to learn is how to access those abilities soberly.


Illusion: You can form genuine relationships through shared drug experiences.

Reality: If you ask people in rehab who came to visit them, the answer is invariable their family, a brother or a sister, their children, their parents, their partners. It is never their friends from the pub. It is never their fellow addicts. Because you don’t form genuine friends through addiction. Addicts only care about their fellow addicts to the extent that they facilitate the drug experience


Illusion: The drug experience is a genuinely meaningful one.

Reality: You do not get withdrawal symptoms from a genuinely meaningful experience – you get bliss. To get meaning you have to stretch yourself. There are no shortcuts to self-development. Try hanging out at a party or other experience where people are stoned or drunk when you are stoned or inebriated like the others. You will think you have such a meaningful experience – you are going to solve the problems of the world. Try going to a few dinner parties sober and you will be astounded at how stupid those conversations are.   



Are you sick of these lies?

Is there something in your life that worth the effort of getting rid of the addiction?

There are strategies to help you stop addictions and to keep them under control

Contact us

We are here to help

Maria da Silva

Maria is a Hypno-CBT Therapist and an expert in helping people understand and overcome their past conditioning and engage in meaningful and peaceful relationships.

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