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Time-Out With SURPIN June Edition-OVERCOMING ADDICTION - Dr. Nayah Egegbara & Dr. Oluwabukola Quadri



  • Definition of addiction.

  • Different types of addiction.

  • The Biological basis of addiction

  • Tips for overcoming addiction.

  • Stages of motivation in overcoming addiction.

  • How to deal with a relapse

Definition of addiction:

Addiction is an inability to stop engaging in a behavior or using a substance or even though it is causing psychological and physical harm. This means addiction is not restricted to substances like alcohol, heroin, marijuana, and other such drugs. It also refers to recurring compulsion in an individual to engage in some specific activity or behaviour despite harmful consequences e.g: gambling, overeating, excessive physical exercise, watching pornography, etc. It has genetic, psychosocial, and environmental dimensions to it.

Biological basis of addiction:

Addictions stimulate a specific part of the brain called the limbic system. The limbic system is the part of the brain involved in our behavioural and emotional responses, especially when it comes to behaviours we need for survival such as feeding, reproduction and caring for our young, and fight or flight responses.

Normally, when we engage in activities we enjoy, the limbic system responds by releasing a chemical substance called Dopamine which heightens the feelings of pleasure. Some other chemical substances like serotonin and norepinephrine are also released. These 2 have been found to be low in individuals who engage in such acts as gambling. The repeated activity they indulge in causes the release of higher levels of these chemical substances, making them feel good and high.

The pleasurable effect caused by the release of these hormones makes an individual want to repeat the actions that brought about the feeling. This is called reinforcement. So, because of the pleasurable effect, an individual finds it difficult to stop the activity or behavior.

Addiction can also be genetic in which case it can be inherited. This is why sometimes; you find that an individual who is involved in an addictive behaviour has a very close relative with similar issues.

It can also be learned. So, if one grows up in an environment where the use of psychoactive substances, gambling, watching pornography, etc. is commonly practiced, that individual could also find himself or herself engaging in such.

Harmful effects of Addiction: There are uncountable but we will only mention a few eg:

Persistently running into debts, Physical health issues, Ignoring other important aspects of one’s life (because they’re giving all their resources and time to the habit).

Types of Addiction:

Chemical Addiction: This refers to addiction that has to do with the use of substances

Behavioral Addiction: This refers to addiction that involves compulsive behaviours. They are persistent, repeated behavior you carry out even if they don’t offer any real benefits.

Tips for Overcoming Addiction

1. Building Connections: When trying to get clean and sober, it’s important to tell one’s self that am not alone. And in so doing it’s by entering an inpatient treatment program to enjoy a constant support and supervision.

2. Finding A New Passion: It’s important to use your free hours used to consume the substance of abuse or act of addiction with a new hobby or return to an abandoned pastime, this is because free time can feel challenging or even triggering. For someone who can exercise it’s known to be helpful when overcoming addiction. Writing or painting too can be a very good hobby that can be picked up to help express your emotions abs boost your mood and mindsets.

3. Start Volunteering: While getting sober it’s important to give back and not focus on yourself alone. And as such volunteering makes it’s easier to stay clean and sober, some studies suggest that such as getting involved in your community and practicing social services reduces the likelihood of abusing drugs or engaging in addictive behavior such as gambling among others as listed above.

4. Practice Mindfulness When Overcoming Addiction: Someone who has sought help and has gone through (CBT) Cognitive-behavioural therapy can use mindfulness to reinforce CBT

5. Journal While Getting Sober: This helps to keep a record of how far you have gone on your journey for overcoming the addiction because it’s usually a long journey. Practicing journal is by recording your thoughts and feelings everyday and u will be able to look back on all the ways you have grown. You can use your journal to set goals for yourself

6. Choose Healthy Meals: It is believed that eating healthy makes your body feel good. For example, choosing foods that are high in carbohydrates can help balance your serotonin level (which is the feel-good hormone) that can boost your mood and help you relax. However, depending on the particular substance of addiction, you may be facing B and C vitamin deficiencies and as such choosing the right meal can help your body recover from the physical side effects of addiction

7. Create Accountability: In achieving this, one can choose an individual as your accountability partner. It can either be. A friend or a family member, this is the person you can turn to when having cravings or experiencing a physical or emotional trigger. The twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are great places to find an accountability partner.

Note: It’s important to also remember that RELAPSING IS A COMMON PART OF RECOVERY, and there is no reason to feel shame or guilt about it and this is where your accountability partner plays a role by reaching out to that trusted person about your slip or relapse, the sooner you can get help back.

8. Choose your company: This is a very important aspect because who you spend your time with will affect your behaviour and so for this reason if you had a group of friends with whom you abuse drugs or do addictive acts with, it’s best to distance yourself from them when you’re getting sober.

Recovery is also a great time to seek out a new group of friends, and activities such as sport can make you meet new people

9. Read Books: Reading self-help books and books about getting sober can help when you’re overcoming addictions. Even books like novels can help you get clean and sober this is because it’s believed that reading is a great distraction, it can take you into a fantasy world where you push your addiction to a distant memory

10. Find The Right Treatment Center for You: All of the above tips can help but sometimes overcoming addiction is not something you can do alone. In that case, it’s best if you reach out and ask for help with professional treatment.

Steps Taken by Professionals to provide support and treatment to someone with addiction

The ultimate aim of treatment of addiction/ dependent person is the WITHDRAWAL of the substance of dependence. The professional goes through the following steps

1. They go through a motivational interview

2. Assess the stages of change in the individual which comprises of

a) Pre-contemplation stage: The person with an addiction does not believe there is a problem, though others recognize it.

b) Contemplation stage: Individual weighs up pros and cons and considers that change might be necessary

c) Decision: Point reached where the decision is made to act or not to act on the issue of substance misuse

d) Action: User chooses a strategy for change and peruses it

e) Maintenance: Gains are maintained and consolidated. Setbacks May lead to relapse

f) Relapse: Refers to a return to a previous pattern of behaviour. However, relapse may be a positive learning experience with lessons for the future.

Most times, people are too caught up in the pleasurable feelings they are experiencing with their addictive behaviour such that before they recognise the psychosocial or physical harm their actions are causing, it has already become complicated. So, before one can follow any of the steps outlined above, that individual first of all needs to acknowledge that there is a problem.

How to deal with a relapse:

There is a difference between lapse and relapse. Lapse is a brief “slip” where a person may use the substance of addiction or the act of addiction but stops immediately. Whereas Relapse is when the person makes a full blown return to use of the addictive substance or acts

What to do right after a relapse:

  • Reaching out for help

  • Attending a self-help group

  • Avoiding triggers

  • Setting healthy boundaries

  • Engaging in self-care

  • Reflecting on the relapse

  • Developing a relapse prevention plan

  • If the dependent person finds that they can’t stop using the substance of choice or act of addiction after a relapse, it’s good to seek out professional help.

In conclusion, It’s important to note that overcoming an addiction can be quite challenging, and sometimes there are other underlying mental illnesses or social problems that drive the addictive behaviour. This is why persons who want help to stop an addiction must first seek the help of a professional for guidance.

Kindly take note of the SURPIN helplines listed on below for any further enquiries.

Thank you.


Q: Considering the biological basis of addiction, does it mean the person is helpless and not to be blamed?

A: Absolutely not. Irrespective of how the body responds to such addictive behaviours, we ought to be in control of our actions especially when such actions have become harmful to one’s health

Q: Can people be addicted to work or sex?

A: Most definitely. Once one finds it difficult to control an activity or behaviour which has become harmful psychologically or physically, then the behaviour falls within the definition of addiction.

Q: So if it’s genetic, does that means a father/mother will pass his/her addiction to his child?

A: It is possible. However, this does not apply in all cases.

Q: As a relation or friend of someone with addiction, how can we get them to understand they have a problem?

A: Unfortunately, a lot of people are too caught up in the pleasurable feelings they are experiencing with their addictive behaviour such that before they recognise the psychosocial or physical harm their actions are causing, it has already become complicated.

Q: If the individual seeks to help himself and doesn’t cooperate with treatment but comes on every appointment day talking about how much help he needs how can one help such a person?

A: As therapists, we need to recognise persons who come in for treatment with ulterior motives. They are not really ready to stop the addiction but maybe benefiting from appearing as though they are ready to seek help. One can’t make progress with such persons

Q: Presently, there is a lot of advertising done by betting companies are these not going to cause people to become addicted to gambling?

A: This most definitely makes things worse and is actually increasing the incidences of gambling addiction and other mental health disorders that can arise as an aftermath. Some betting companies also advertise that persons should bet responsibly but who defines responsible betting

Q: Can’t there be a policy that limits the advertising of these betting companies or explicitly warns about addiction just as is done for some recreational psychoactive substances such as alcohol and tobacco?

A: Such policies would most definitely help. However, the drivers of such policies don’t seem to have the political will to push it.

Q: Can u throw more light on Social media and internet addiction especially in children, adolescents, youths, and adults.

A: Current trends have definitely brought on this new form of addiction. This is why parents are advised not to let their children have uncontrolled internet access too early. The basic principles enumerated above could still be applied once one can put in measures to reduce indefinite access to the internet.

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