Addictions and destiny

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I spoke to a shrink last week who told me that people who are addicts were destined to succumb to their addiction, that becoming an addict is inevitable. That if it isn't one addiction (smoking, drugs, alcohol) it will be another (sex, theft, putting rubber bands around your wrist). Having overcome one addiction myself (I gave up smoking over three years ago) I am now going over my habits and wondering what my replacement addiction might be. I have cut down on alcohol, I only take thyroid pills, I don't have any compulsory urge to binge eat, French kiss everyone of eligible age or count how many noodles go into my maccaroni and cheese.

 

The shrink made it sound like Scotch Calvinist preordination. Do you agree that an addict can't change his spots?

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I disagree that this is a hard and fast rule (though for many people it's true) because it's really quite easy for anybody to pick up an addiction. It often seems to be a learned behavior rather than a behavioral calling. Were Pavlov's dog addicts? were they destined to graduate to cigarettes or heroin?

 

It seems to me that many people's root cause of their addictions can be worked out in therapy, and then with hard work they can learn to replace their triggers and crutches with more constructive thinking and behaviors. Which doesn't make it easy.

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There is definitely such thing as an addictive personality, which manifests itself differently in different people but it is certainly possible for a person to overcome this or at the least not feed it. I do believe that it can be a lifelong struggle for some though.

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no :)

 

I think addiction is merely an intense form of habit. i was once told '..to break a habit you have to *conciously* NOT do that thing for a minimum of 21 days...'. Why 21? no idea - probably some shrink will tell you, but the truth is it works... The thing about smoking is it is a habit - you wake up, fag, out of train/zug, fag, walking down street, fag... (ok, smoke sorry our westerly cousins).

Now if you can do that, (i.e. NOT do something for 21 days) you can then control the desires/habit/obsession or not as you so desire.

wether this contradicts your shrink, maybe, maybe not. but I suspect that if anyone *really* wanted to *stop* (or even start) doing something, then creating a habit is the way to go - but not being 'preordained' .

 

- you can all try an experiment. On your commute to work - do you ALWAYS go the same way, same entrance, same side of the street, same time? do you wake up the same time, perform the same 'get up/dress' routine?

- change it conciously. go a DIFFERENT route to work, sit in a different compartment, park on a different floor, don't drink that first cup of coffee before you do some work... don't smoke that first cigarette

- do this for 21 days (or more) and then say 'ok, done' then see what you do the next day!

 

- be interested to know if anyone does this!!!

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I don't agree.

 

1) not evryone that smoke, drinks too much, takes drugs, etc are addicts. Some just like, but can forego the behavior, just don't.

2) If you are an addict, that addiction can be limited to only 1 item. i.e. One can smoke at will, then not smoke for weeks, drinks loads of beers, but goes sober for a week because they have a long week at work, but they cannot stop masturbating. Then there only addiction is the masturbating, the other activities are voluntary and foregoable.

3) I think alot of "addictions" are really just excuses to do something you know is not good for you.

 

More directly though, I do not think that just because you smoked and quit, that you are bound to have some other injurious activity take its place.

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I think people can have a predisposition to develop an addiction, but that the predisposition isn't an inevitability: they may or may not actually develop one depending on a variety of social or other factors.

 

Your therapist is being a bit too simplistic. Does s/he know you're not an idiot?

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but they cannot stop masturbating. Then there only addiction is the masturbating

 

I think alot of "addictions" are really just excuses to do something you know is not good for you.

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I totally agree that there are people with addictive personalities and if you're not hooked on one thing it will be another. It doesn't have to be dangerous but it will be something. Addictive personalities are just intense and tend to do things to the extreme for example, I am addicted to chewing gum.

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Why does addiction always only ever occur with nice stuff? I mean, like booze and drugs and sex and chocolate. Is addiction defined as "really into awesome fun stuff", because nobody ever gets addicted to mowing the lawn, or broccoli do they? I think people in general like to have fun, so if they gave up dope for example, they might want more beer, or more sex.

 

The way I see it, addiction is only a problem if supply is a problem. Me, I am addicted to wiessbier, which is pretty easy to handle as addictions go, because they even sell it at the train stations. Brilliant. My addiction only manifests itself in a negative way when I stray into crap places like Dusseldorf, where they are all rubbish and sell stupid beer that I don't like. Mmm. Totally going to go and get a beer now. Awesome.

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There is definitely such thing as an addictive personality, which manifests itself differently in different people but it is certainly possible for a person to overcome this or at the least not feed it. I do believe that it can be a lifelong struggle for some though.

I second that, and have noticed that it is very difficult for (many, most?) people who do not have an addictive personality to understand why it is so hard for an addictive person to stop their addictions.

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I am hopelessly addicted to coffee. But, I have cut back.

 

I am also addicted to sun, and since I am in a massive state of withdrawal living in Germany, I have to figure out what to substitute to feel better. I'm thinking of taking up a crack habit. Who's with me?

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But do you think it's inevitable that a person with an addictive personality will go from one addiction to another if they do end one? Is the answer then to find the least harmful addiction or will that become not interesting at some point and something else ends up being sought? Which I guess is what Sara was asking originally.

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I was addicted to the thrill of skiing... some addictions can be healthy, unless you are a speed demon with a tendency to fall. ;)

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No, a person with an addictive personality, or rather a predisposition to addiction is more susceptible to addiction in general. That doesn't mean you can trade in one addiction for another and be cured from the former. You can definitely have and are likely to have many addictions simultaneously.

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Why does addiction always only ever occur with nice stuff? I mean, like booze and drugs and sex and chocolate. Is addiction defined as "really into awesome fun stuff", because nobody ever gets addicted to mowing the lawn, or broccoli do they?

People can be addicted to negative things; it's just called something different. Compulsion, OCD-variants, and so on.

 

I'm all in favour of the sort of addictions that enable people to keep functioning at a higher level. I can't work without a certain level of caffeine. I have no intention of giving it up because I would get withdrawal headaches and they would hurt. Fuck that noise.

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In very simple terms, the science behind it is that addictive behaviours (smoking, alcohol, eating, sex etc.) cause the brain to release dopamine which is basically your "pleasure neurotransmitter". It's not so much the activity you're addicted to but the release of dopamine. AFAIK there's no consensus as to why some people react to or require the release of dopamine more than others.

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Having overcome one addiction myself (I gave up smoking over three years ago) I am now going over my habits and wondering what my replacement addiction might be. I have cut down on alcohol, I only take thyroid pills, I don't have any compulsory urge to binge eat, French kiss everyone of eligible age or count how many noodles go into my maccaroni and cheese.

 

The shrink made it sound like Scotch Calvinist preordination. Do you agree that an addict can't change his spots?

Depends if you are talking someone with a 'simple' physical addiction or individuals who have an addictive personality.

 

They are two different things entirely. I'm sure one of our internet 'Scientists' can back this up for you. :)

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In very simple terms, the science behind it is that addictive behaviours (smoking, alcohol, eating, sex etc.) cause the brain to release dopamine which is basically your "pleasure neurotransmitter". It's not so much the activity you're addicted to but the release of dopamine. AFAIK there's no consensus as to why some people react to or require the release of dopamine more than others.

That only applies in some instances of addiction, and dopamine isn't the only neurotransmitter involved. Other stuff's going on at different levels as well: dopamine and adrenaline have a pretty interesting interrelationship, which may be part of the reason why thrill-seeking is such a common addiction.

 

There are dopamine agonists and antagonists, which either encourage or suppress the release of $neurotransmitter, and direct- and indirect-actors that either cause the release/suppression of $neurotransmitter direct or that rely on the activation of certain neural pathways to do it.

 

There's also the social aspect to certain addictive behaviours, smoking being the obvious one. The nicotine rush is one thing, but the act of lighting and smoking the cigarette is also a habit-forming pattern, as is the act of going outside with the same group of people at around the same times every day. There's also a possibility that, the more smokers are forced to huddle outside like lepers, the actual tribal nature of being a smoker could become psychologically addictive in itself. The New Yorker has a piece about teen evangelists having sex, where if the proportion of Silver Ring wearers goes above 30%, the movement collapses because it ceases to be cool or edgy. It's the same sort of thing, or at least an argument could be made for it.

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