There are countless faces of addiction. Aside from alcoholism and drug abuse, addiction can take the shape of numerous maladaptive behaviors.
There is a strong argument that we are fast becoming a nation of compulsive drug users, a “chemical people,” if you will. As Americans, we consume over 60 percent of the world’s production of illicit drugs—more than any other nation. At last count, some 6 million of us regularly use cocaine, the street drug with the highest addiction potential of all. And the number of users of cocaine’s most potent and addictive form—crack—is still climbing.
Then there are the legal drugs. We’ve had a blind spot about the negative consequences of these—especially our two favorites, alcohol and nicotine. Yet together they will kill some 450,000 of us each year (compared with 6,000 or so deaths from illegal drugs). And let’s not forget the 5 to 10 million Americans who abuse prescription medications such as tranquilizers, painkillers, and sleeping pills.
But since addiction is like any self-defeating behavior that a person cannot stop despite its adverse consequences, the term can accurately be applied to almost any behaviors that meet these criteria.
Here are several other forms of potential addictions:
- About 40 to 80 million Americans are thought to suffer from compulsive overeating.
- For sex addicts, sex is a drug that is used in a never-ending search for relief, distraction, comfort, excitement and a sense of power.
- There are no statistics on how many Americans are in addictive relationships, where the relationship is used (like a drug) to avoid certain feelings and to play out power and control issues—this is another common addiction Americans face.
- As our credit debts spiral upward, spending-related addictions are increasingly recognized as a serious problem. Collectively, we owe some $650 billion in consumer debt—twice our indebtedness in 1981!
- It is estimated that another 12 million Americans are workaholics, which robs individuals of their time with a preoccupation to work. There are two reasons people turn to workaholism: to gain a sense of competence and power and to pay off debts incurred while overspending.
These are just some of the behaviors that are classified as potential addictions. Addiction treatment for these behaviors requires specialized treatment that differs slightly from traditional therapy for alcoholism and abuse, but can provide valuable guidance in overcoming the negative habits.