Process Addictions — Introduction

Historically, addictions have been associated with various drugs and equated with situations in which the "addict" became sick with some kind of "withdrawal" when the drug was not available. However gambling addiction and sexual addiction began to be identified as quite similar processes to drug addiction.  Initially, calling these "addictions" was quite controversial. At that time even addiction experts spoke of addictions to drugs that did not lead to withdrawal symptoms as "psychological addictions" as if that made these addictions less serious.  We recall the time that some very smart people would say "cocaine is only psychologically addictive."  Oops.

We now know that any pleasurable activity can be addictive, withdrawal symptoms have little relevance to the severity of an addiction,  and drugs that do produce withdrawal symptoms are not necessarily the hardest addictions to break. When we speak with people who have been through a recovery process from addictions of various kinds, we frequently hear that achieving and maintaining recovery from gambling addiction was much harder than any drug addiction.  We have in the distant past (sorry, we can't recall the sources, so we can't fully vouch for accuracy but we know we encountered much agreement) seen research alleging a more intense addiction with nicotine than with any of the illegal drugs, including heroin and cocaine.

In addition to gambling addiction, nicotine (tobacco/ vaping) addiction, and sexual addiction we now hear frequently about computer addiction, food addiction, habitual cutting, among other things. In many cases, the degree to which these difficulties function like other addictions and respond to the same kinds of treatment intervention vary.

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Last update April 26, 2018

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