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What is addiction?
Addiction occurs when you use a substance or substances (such as alcohol, nicotine, illicit drugs, or pharmaceutical medication), or engage in an activity (like gambling, sex, or shopping) that can be pleasurable but becomes habitual, uncontrollable and results in harm. This can interfere with your ordinary life responsibilities and impact negatively on your relationships, health and ability to work in a safe manner.
When you require a substance or activity in greater quantities and/or frequency, your brain's neurochemicals continue to adapt to these changes, and you need an increased amount of the substance to achieve the desired effect. This is also known as tolerance. If you suddenly reduce or cease taking the substance you may experience mild to severe withdrawal symptoms — physical, emotional and psychological symptoms that are detrimental to your health.
The good news is that addiction is a health issue and treatable. As with any health issue a person may experience there is always treatment and support available and people do restore their health with the right support.
Addiction in Australia
In Australia, it is reported that 80 percent of adults consumed alcohol over the previous 12 months, and 15 percent used illicit substances during the same period (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2013). Although the majority of those who drink alcohol are at a low risk of problems, 15 to 20 percent consume alcohol at a level that is deemed hazardous to their health (Saunders, 2015).
About 70 to 80 percent of Australian adults have participated in some form of gambling over a 12-month period and 15 percent of these were identified as regular gamblers. Ten percent of regular gamblers were identified as problem gamblers (Gambling productivity commission report, 2010).