o what he does cannot be properlysupported without a discussion of addiction. While the pharmacological examples such asalcoholism and heroin addiction are still the clearest examples of addiction, new models ofaddictive behavior including exercise addiction, compulsive gambling, and even sexualaddiction have gained acceptance. Just as alcoholism was once thought to be a consciouschoice, these latter examples have long been thought to be the result of such things as adefective moral character.
Recently, however, it has been recognized that the sexual addictor the compulsive gambler can stop their compulsion no more easily than the alcoholic. Anunderlying statement, accepted by most in the world of addiction research, recognizesaddiction as an integrated, bio-psycho-social illness (Johnson, 1993). In other words, anaddiction is not an isolated physical or social illness. The addiction contains elements ofsociety, biology and individual psychology (Johnson, 1993). The definition of the bio-psycho-social model states that an addiction is therepeated use of a substance or a compelling involvement in behavior that directly orindirectly modifies the internal milieu (as indicated by changes in neurochemical andneuronal activity) in such a way as to produce immediate reinforcement, but whoselong-term effects are personally or medically harmful or highly disadvantageous to society(Pomerleau, 1988). This viewpoint manages to catch all addictions, including both substance andprocess, and define them in a learning context.Order now
A brief, yet encompassing view ofaddiction’s purpose is that of a coping device. The addiction becomes a method in whichthe addicted individual can “manage and magically control multiple forms of anxiety”(Keller, 1992, p. 224). Much like a security blanket, or favorite stuffed animal, theaddiction is used to protect and comfort the addicted individual.
Understanding themagical, and comforting, role played by the addictive substance is key to understandingaddiction. By viewing an addiction as a coping device, much of the addiction’s allurebecomes evident, as does the addicted individual’s continued return to it. Addiction isinvariably a progressive disease (Schaef, 1987; ). Simply put, it gets worse. Someaddictions progress more slowly than others, while some addictions progress very quickly.
Some of the progression speed would seem to be based in the individual. Not allalcoholics drink at the same speeds, or have problems with their drinking after a certain,predefined time. Some researchers argue that addiction is always fatal, but others view thisas a questionable statement (Schaef, 1987). Not only does addiction build, it builds untilthe individual is destroyed.
Eisenstein was one of the first to list hypersexuality (now called sexual addiction)as an addiction (Orford, 1985). Indeed, sexual addiction is like alcoholism in that the sexaddict uses a mood-altering experience, just as the alcoholic uses a mood-altering drug(Carnes, 1983). Carnes (1983) goes further, recognizing the progressive cycle of sexualaddiction, and describing how the addict becomes increasingly focused on sex. The onlyargument against labeling sexual addiction as an addiction, which has fallen rather short inthe last decade, is the societal definition of excessive sexual behavior. That is, each societydefines excessive behavior differently.
What may be viewed as excessive in one locale andtime may be viewed as quite acceptable in another. Thus, while the true sexual addict maybe labeled as simply active, after a period of time, the level of activity will have grown toa point where the addiction is unmistakable. Gambling, meanwhile, is also a mood modifier, or psychotropic experience(Orford, 1985). Much like sexual behavior and alcohol, gambling has the power to altermoods and cognitive states in those who partake. Some have argued that gambling is sovery powerful a mood modifier, that it is for all intents and purposes a drug (Orford,1985). Gambling addiction, too, is a progressive disease.
Virtually everyone has heardanecdotes of afflicted individuals gambling away careers, marriages, and homes. Gamblingaddiction has now been recognized to be as powerful an addiction as alcohol, and has evenbeen compared in strength to heroin (Orford, 1985). The importance and similarity amongthe addictions is their mood-modifying nature. Exercise, gambling, and sexual behavior areall psychotropic behaviors, just as alcohol, cocaine, and marijuana are psychotropicsubstances. Essentially, the addictive substance is psychotropic, and as such, is anunderstandable coping device.
All of these behaviors can make an individual feel better fora while, and this brief respite from anxiety is what eventually leads the individual intoaddiction.Some researchers seek an addiction gene, convinced that when it is found, .