In the Greek epic ‘Odysseus’, the hero – Odysseus – jubilant over a hard earned victory in the Trojan Wars sets sail for the journey back home. Halfway through the journey, the ship passes by the ‘Land of Lotus Eaters’.
Attracted by the beautiful island, the crew drops anchor only to find that they are addicted to the Lotus which makes them oblivious of everything. Lest all his crew forget the ocean route to home, Odysseus orders his men to quickly leave the island.
The epic narrative, written over 3000 years ago by Homer, is an analogy to a serious modern-day issue: the problem of addiction. The word addiction generally entails a wide range of substances and human actions. It could be addiction to drugs or addiction to seemingly incorrigible habits that take a lot of efforts to get rid of and overcome.
The Oxford Dictionary describes addiction as ‘The fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance or activity.’ In today’s context the word addiction is being used to mean a range of addictions – addition to drugs such as heroin, cocaine and behaviours – addiction to gambling, shop-lifting, stealing, etc.
Addictions, then, can be categorised into those enlisted and categorised under the Diagnostic and Statistical Mannual of Mental Disorders and addictions that have to broadly do with human behaviour. The former is associated with drug abuse and the latter with behavioural traits that are socially unacceptable but symptomatic of a different kind of addictions than the drug addiction.
Addiction to substances is perhaps the most harmful of all addictions in terms of its direct impact on the human brain. It is similar to the one experienced by Odysseus and his crew members who nearly got trapped in the Island of Lotus Eaters, where once people eat the lotus they get addicted to it, making them oblivious of everything around them.
A person addicted to drugs is hooked to it forever till he or she is weaned away from it and rehabilitated. It is a never ending craving, a compulsion to have it on a daily basis with each passing day the craving for ‘more’ assuming greater proportion. It not only throws the personal life out of gear but leads to social isolation and mental disorders.
Impulse control disorder
In contrast, addictions having to do with compulsive behavioural traits have nothing to do with drug abuse. These behavioural traits are largely manifestation of impulse control disorder. The patients suffering from impulse control disorder find it very difficult to keep their impulses under control.
The symptoms of impulse control disorder are:
- Actions marked by compulsive aggression
- Actions marked by compulsive assault on others
- Actions marked by compulsive stealing or Kleptomania
- Actions marked by compulsive setting ablaze things or Pyromania
- Actions marked by a compulsion to indulge in gambling
- Eating Food
- Watching Pornography
- Using internet
- Video games playing
- Doing work
- Doing exercise
- Obsessive preoccupation with spirituality
- Asking for pain
- Cutting things
- Needless Shopping
Substance abuse or drug addiction is the single most harmful addiction. It begins with a small dose and the quantity keeps going up with each passing day till the patient is addicted to it.
Persons can get addicted to substances through:
- Alcohol intake
- Using heroin
- Using Cocaine
- Using Marijuana
Addictive prescription drugs are:
- Hypnotics, or anxiolytics (sleeping pills &tranquilizers)
Other addictive substances are:
- Cannabis (marijuana)
- Amphetamines (such as methamphetamine or meth)
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
Finally, addiction irrespective of its types and manifestations causes untold misery to the patients suffering from it. Proper and timely medication can greatly alleviate the pain and sufferings.