Posted by: dopaminedialogue | 12/07/2009

The Ironies of Addiction

I spent this morning talking to a group of recently graduated nurses working in their first job. As I was talking about addiction and withdrawal, I thought about some of the reasons people begin to use substances for relief of a particular symptom (or feeling).

Many people with addiction to alcohol (or sedatives, which are the solid form of alcohol) report that they drink/use to relieve stress or anxiety – or to help them sleep, but the symptoms of alcohol/sedative withdrawal include: anxiety (including sensitive startle response), tremors, panic attacks, trouble sleeping, depression, upset stomach, irritability, and severe symptoms such as seizure (the extreme opposite of relaxed!) or delirium tremens (a state of confusion and visual hallucinations). That sounds like quite a stressful experience!

Many people with addiction to opiates report using opiates to relieve pain, maybe even chronic pain. They also may use opiates to help give them motivation to work harder and longer hours.  However, withdrawal from opiates CAUSES pain, all-over body aches, and/or flu-like symptoms. The worst symptoms last about 8 days, but after a long period of using opiates, a person may struggle with continued post-acute (or longer lasting) withdrawal for up to 2 years following detox! Also, in withdrawal from opiates, a person experiences severe depression and many report lacking any and all motivation for life.

The same is true for all of the other addictive substances – whatever a drug does for you, in withdrawal you will experience the opposite effect.

I guess the same can be said for behavioral addictions, such as gambling, as well. The gambler may go into it chasing that rush, high, and hope of winning money – but in the end loses it all.

How ironic that the very feeling/symptom that the afflicted person is seeking relief from ends up becoming what plagues them most.


  1. right on the money and very well written. I think your blog is very good!

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