Understanding addiction and its devastating effects

09 Sep 2019


It is very disheartening to see young men lurking around street corners begging for coins whilst holding on to milk pints for dear life inhaling and exhaling glue out of them.

At the other end adults battle with repossession of assets, unable to provide for their family because they have gambled away their earnings.

And there are countless fatherless children for they conceived in crack-houses by a girl who succumbed to sexual advances for the next fix. All these scenarios have something in common, addictive activities.

People generally do not die from the occasional indulgence in what takes the edge off, it could be the drink or two, a couple of hours at the slots or popping a few pills for pains and anxiety as long as there is proper control and it does not interfere with the proper daily responsibilities or deter one’s mental or physical state. Once the wellbeing of a person is compromised the use could turn into misuse, abuse and subsequently a bitter battle with an addiction of some sort.

Addiction goes beyond the realms of narcotics and alcohol and a person could be addicted to gambling, sex, eating or even working. Psychologist, Keletso Tshekiso explained to The Sunday Standard that there are two types of addiction know as substance addiction and process addiction. Tshekiso said: “Substance addiction involves deriving appetitive effect from using products that are ingested into the body, including drug use disorders and food-related disorders.

For instance binge eating, binge drinking whilst process addiction involves a series of potentially pathological behaviors that expose individuals to ‘mood-altering events’ by which they achieve pleasure and become dependent like sex and the internet.”

According to Tshekiso there has been research that indicates that a close relationship between addictive behavior with psychological behavior and withdrawal effects. She further said: “The addicted individuals lose control and become extremely engrossed with behavior that at first provides an appetitive effect. Although the individuals get and enjoy being gratified, they also experience an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. They are unable to predict when and how addictive behavior will occur. Subsequently, this appetitive effect may make activities that the addicted individual used to enjoy less enjoyable or result in the complete exclusion of such activities.”

Like any disorder addiction does not fall from the sky and there are numerous things that could trigger it in a person. However Tshekiso explained that there is an ongoing debate in their fraternity which suggests that depression, self-esteem, anxiety and a history of child abuse could be the possible triggers of addictive behaviors.

“In my opinion, there is no single cause of addiction; it may be medical, psychological, social, spiritual or even combined. I think every issue deserves to be given a holistic view,” she said.

Any form of condition is classified as a chronic condition and it is imperative that it is nipped in the bud at the earliest possible time to minimize harm, it posses both psychological and physical side effects and there are signs and symptoms that one can look out for.

Tshekiso listed the common symptoms of addictive behavior as, “Loss of control; the person constantly thinks of that particular object, activity or substance. The addicted person may also show withdrawal symptoms of irritability, craving, restlessness or depression when the activity ceases. They may deny problems resulting from their engagement in the behavior, even though others can see the negative effects. Some individuals may have a blackout for the time they were engaging in the behavior. For instance, they may remember how much they spent and what they bought.”

Most addictive engagements require financial muscle and they do not come cheap and as they continue to be fed there are increased cravings and they require more to satisfy the craving and are therefore not sustainable in the long run. The long term continuous use may lead to interference with the performance of life roles like work, school, social activities, or hobbies, impairment of social relationships, criminal activity, legal problems, involvement in dangerous situations, physical injury, financial loss and emotional trauma.

The need to respond as quickly and efficiently to addictive behavior cannot be quantified, Tshekiso explained that, “There is a need to acknowledge the problem, seek help and live a positive and active life going forward.” She further stated that: “Most addictive disorders are treatable. The approach chose is determined by the condition of the particular addictive disorders. If it appears medical then a psychiatric approach shall be employed and its more psychological then an effective model for understanding and treating that disorder shall be used.”

Regarding treatment Clinical Programs Manager, Lorato Koosaletse of the Botswana Substance Abuse Network, BOSASNET, who could only speak on behalf of those with substance abuse explained that though there is no rehabilitation centre the government is advanced stages of building one in Serowe. Koosaletse said on a positive note that there Substance Use Disorder specialists (SUDS) at the Sabrana Psychiatric Hospital with the downside they give priority to those with mental disorders. The hospital also provides detox services and they will be opening an Addiction’s Professional Unit.