[mccookgazette.com] Fair ~ 78°F  
High: 76°F ~ Low: 53°F
Wednesday, May 4, 2016

When addictions aren't addictions

Friday, May 20, 2011

We hear about these things all the time anymore; food addictions, gambling addictions, marijuana addictions, sex addictions, relationship addictions, etc. etc. We have more addictions than Carter has pills and every week it seems like a new one is added to the list. The problem with that is that the above mentioned behaviors AREN"T addictions.

The Medical Dictionary defines addiction as a compulsive physiological need for and use of a habit-forming substance (such as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal.

Notice the term physiological is mentioned twice in the definition and psychological not at all. That's because addiction is a physical process. Consequently, anything we can become addicted to must have the physical properties required for that addiction to happen. Once we become addicted, we will suffer physical withdrawal if we are deprived of that physical substance.

Physical withdrawal doesn't happen with the behaviors named at the beginning of this column. That's because none of those things contain the physical properties necessary for addiction.

But why get caught up in the details of a definition when there's money to be made? We've seen an explosion of for profit rehab clinics all over the country in the past couple of decades, all designed to treat "addictions" and all designed to make money. When I was the Executive Director of Shelter of Sunshine in Arkansas, a facility designed for abused and neglected children, these rehab centers would accept our children if they had special needs until their Medicare funding ran out, then they would literally kick them out the door.

The courts have even gotten caught up in this foolishness, often sending prisoners arrested for alcohol or drug abuse to a rehab center as part of a treatment program. The problem with rehab centers is that they attempt to induce change in a person from the outside which can't be done. The person must want to change and even then it's hard. If he/she doesn't want to change, it's impossible.

It reminds me of a joke that asks how many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? The answer is it only takes one but the light bulb really has to want to change.

These behaviors some people call addictions because it's profitable to do so are really something quite different. They are psychological dependencies. All of us enjoy doing things that make us feel good. Fishing, hunting, golfing, going to concerts, attending ball games, rooting for the Huskers, etc, are some examples of that. Some people also get their enjoyment through eating, gambling, having sex, smoking pot or other things that aren't anymore physically addictive than putting on your red during Husker football Saturdays.

It IS possible to become so involved in some of these activities that we neglect other parts of our lives to the point that the behavior becomes dysfunctional. If we become hooked on Internet porn to the point that we neglect our spouse, then that's a bad thing. If the first thing we do when we get up in the morning is smoke a joint and then we continue to smoke the rest of the day without going to school or work, that's a bad thing. If we eat to the point of obesity, that's a bad thing.

But these examples AREN'T addictions because none of those substances have addictive qualities and none of these people experience physical withdrawal if they are deprived of them. An overweight person isn't going to see little green monsters and have physical convulsions if they don't eat three pieces of apple pie at two o'clock in the morning. It's simply a lack of self control. They give into their desires instead of denying them.

It's impossible for us to communicate effectively with each other if we don't have a shared understanding of our language. It's called the linguistic-relativity hypothesis. That simply means we can only understand the world based on the vocabulary and meaning our language supplies. So when we change the meaning of words to suit our own ends, it also changes the meanings of those words to millions of other people who don't know any better and it allows the name changers to create multi-million dollar industries based on that misconception.

And that's just wrong.

Fact Check
See inaccurate information in this story?

Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. If you feel that a comment is offensive, please Login or Create an account first, and then you will be able to flag a comment as objectionable. Please also note that those who post comments on mccookgazette.com may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.

I am wondering if Mike Sr. realizes that "addiction" in the terms of chemical abuse or dependancy are classified as mental health issues....

This looks to me to be an very misleading and judgemental article. To be honest, I'm sort of suprised he wrote it.

I am not sure which medical dictionary Mike is quoting, but the American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as follows:

"Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in the individual pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. The addiction is characterized by impairment in behavioral control, craving, inability to consistently abstain, and diminished recognition of significant problems with one's behaviors and interpersonal relationships. Like other chronic diseases, addiction can involve cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death."

I don't see any mention of visual hallucinations of little green men in there. If you are going to make a sweeping judgment of something, make sure you at least know a little bit about it.

To sum it up, the whole opinion piece is hogwash. Addiction is not merely physiological.

-- Posted by Sir Didymus on Sat, May 21, 2011, at 3:40 AM

The portions of addiction that are not physiological are all symptoms of a lack of will power, exactly as Mike states. The fact that some dictionaries have changed their definitions doesn't change that fact. It can be very hard to give up those non-addictive substances and actions that we like so intensely, but that still doesn't make them addictions, it just makes us weak humans.

-- Posted by MrsSmith on Sat, May 21, 2011, at 9:50 AM

Addiction is a natural occurrence. It is a circular, habitual, repetitive, re-occurring behavior that the mind and body becomes accustomed to. This type of behavior is seen in all forms of nature, both earthly as well cosmically.

This "disease" usually causes substantial pleasure both physically and mentally for the individual. The problem with the "disease" is simple. Others view the negative side effects as their own personal business that they feel the need to fix.

The only time anyone should have anything to say at all about another person's pursuit of pleasure is simple:

1) If their "disease" is affecting the lives of others. (i.e. theft, damage to persons or property, obvious child neglect)

Otherwise, just let em be...let God be the judge.

On a side note, survival of the fittest (those that are strong minded individuals that have no use for horrible addictions that cause pleasure) is natural, and by letting them be will weed out the weak minded individuals faster. ;-)

-- Posted by cplcac on Sun, May 22, 2011, at 1:17 AM

I am curious to see the research indicating that marijuana is not addictive. I am not saying that it IS. I just want to see something that conclusively says it is not. I suppose the "for" group will throw in their alcohol arguments here to try to prove why weed is okay, but I am simply asking if anyone knows for sure that marijuana is not addictive.

-- Posted by speak-e-z on Mon, May 23, 2011, at 8:59 AM

There is no such thing as an addiction, only lack of self control and self empowerment. Anyone who claims addiction merely isn't a strong enough person to take control of what they do, when they do it and how they do it. I have no pity for those who consistently play 'the victim' throughout life...You have the complete and total control of everything and everyone around you, it's up to you to learn how to control things.

-- Posted by marlin on Tue, May 24, 2011, at 12:28 PM

Speak EZ, I can say that the only thing addicting about weed is the euphoric enjoyment in which it induces for ones self. Anyone who drinks or does any sort of drug or anything really, not just drugs or alcohol, needs to be taught and well aware that anything in excess can be harmful. That's just basic logic. From greasy foods, to a spoon full of heroin, religion, anything in excess is unhealthy physically and mentally.

-- Posted by marlin on Tue, May 24, 2011, at 12:30 PM

Marlin, that's a good opinion and I'm glad you have one. From my perspective, there are such things as chemical addictions. Something that goes beyond voluntary self control. I think there may have been opinions given on this once or twice before with regard to "Big Tobacco" CEO's saying that cigarettes are "not that hard to quit." I might also say that a spoonful of heroin has some addictive qualities in its chemical composition that our human brain is not quite strong enough to just independently overcome. I can discontinue the use of cheeseburgers and fries any time, but I'll tell you first-hand that my feeble pleasure receptors think nicotine rules (even in moderation), while my logical left brain tells me in plain language that it is dangerous to utilize the products that provide it.

-- Posted by speak-e-z on Tue, May 24, 2011, at 1:35 PM


I can tell you from personal expereance that weed is addictive.I lost 20 years of my life to it. I had to wean my self off of it and it took several months. When I reached the point where I was happier sober than when stoned I was able to get away from it. I had several physical symptoms from withdrawl such as nausea, headaches, sleeplessness and shaking. Long term effects has been memory loss and difficulty learning new things. There for the physical side of weed use are real. I am proud to say I am 15 years clean but still dealing with the problems incured by my addiction.

I also know that each person reacts differntly to different things and some people have addictive personalitys. Theese people are ususlly unable to cope with life and seek out ways to escape reality. They dont seem to realise that dealing with your problems is what makes them go away and hiding from them only make them worse.

I beleive that this article is pompus and horribly inacurate. I am suprised Mike would write it.

I do agree with Mike that we as a society need to start taking personal responsibility for our actions. Life is a series of choices and lessons to be learned.

I try not to be harshly judgmental of others because I have no idea what kind of trial others are facing and why god challenges each of us the we he does.



-- Posted by kaygee on Tue, May 24, 2011, at 5:05 PM

Thank you for your honesty, kaygee, and way to go! I think it is easy for some to stand on a soap box and say it is a character flaw to allow a chemical to control how your emotions or body feels. I didn't say it in my previous posts, but I will now. I lost my very best friend to an addiction. He was someone I called brother. He is dead, buried in the ground. I'll never get to talk to him again. He was intelligent, funny, passionate, and generally a great person. Was his character fundamentally flawed? Was he simply too weak and should have "toughened" up and demonstrated an increased ability to empower himself? He went through this "rehabilitation" twice, so he should have been fixed, right? Naw, to write someone off as weak-minded because they are "addicted" to something is too narrow an argument my friends.

-- Posted by speak-e-z on Tue, May 24, 2011, at 6:36 PM


I am truly sorry for your loss.

Until you walk a mile in anothers shoes, and see what they have seen, and learned what they have learned you can never know what lies in their heart.



-- Posted by kaygee on Wed, May 25, 2011, at 12:55 PM

My addictions were pornography, alcohol, and for a very brief period, weed. I was introduced to porn at about age 10. Liked what I saw and couldn't stop looking and visioning. Because of it,Ii couldn't form any meaningful relationships with women. Shame set in, and I turned to alcohol to hide porn from myself and the outside world.

I like being drunk. I loved fighting, and beer made me a whole lot tougher. Drunk, I could be a complete different person, not the reclusive pervert that I became. All this carried on well into my adult life, and then I couldn't stop. A series of unhealthy relationships came and went and the very real possibility that my life would be spent alone.

I did find a lady who accepted me for what I was, we got married. I'm not sure why, we got married in a church, though I was not a believer, actually far from it. I hated God, he was the source of all that went wrong in my life. He was the source of punishment and sickness when I was a child, so I had no use for Him. To make a very long story short, I did come to accept, believe and obey, and on the day of my baptism, there I stood on the shore of a lake, realizing what a poor witness to Christ I am. I still loved drinking alcohol and looking at porn. I would be a hypocrite, and was looking for a way out. Before I knew it, I was in the water and our Pastor instructed me to keep my eyes open. An old self was now gone, just like that.

A very empty void within was now filled. Pop culture has led us to believe our addictions are somehow genetic in nature. They are not. We all have a strengths and weaknesses. We try to accentuate our strengths believing there is a magical substance or false vision that will make us superior, now become our weaknesses. Our weaknesses that we try to hide with self-medication, are still there, it's just that we cannot see them, everyone else can.

-- Posted by Chunky Peanut Butter on Wed, May 25, 2011, at 4:39 PM

Chunky Peanut Butter

Thank you for havin the courage to share your trial.

You are in a small town where every one knows every one elses busness and it takes a mountain of courage to speak out. I admire you for it!

What dosnt kill us makes us stronger. We are all here to make mistakes and learn.

Is there any one else who wants to reach out???

Peace and much love


-- Posted by kaygee on Wed, May 25, 2011, at 6:48 PM


Please don't let your brothers memory die with you. He is screaming from his grave "remember me!". Use his life to teach your children how to identify an addiction and how to stop it. I use my life's history as a teaching tool for my children. It may be humiliating, but it may save them.

-- Posted by Chunky Peanut Butter on Wed, May 25, 2011, at 6:57 PM


Your trial is not humiliating . It is the trial god placed before you to learn and grow from. Be strong and know your speaking out helps others.

Perhaps...this is why you were brought to this time and place...to teach this lesson to others!!!

I support you and I will not judge you harshly... You are to admired for your speaking out. You are making the effort to help others. There is strenght and admaration in that.

Be well my friend.

Peace and much love


-- Posted by kaygee on Wed, May 25, 2011, at 8:21 PM

I find the direction this blog took quite interesting. I also find it very humbling and heart-warming. Thank you to CPB and kaygee for your honesty with yourselves and everyone else.

I continue to find that I am still not above or better than what I am about to say, but I think that sometimes we get stuck in a bubble of our convictions. I think we forget that there are always reasons why we need to keep an open mind. The hot topics in politics: homosexuality, social welfare (including healthcare and social security, etc) all cause us to stand on our "soap boxes" and preach down to others. I am not saying you won't see my avatar behind some narrow-minded comments in the future, but this has been a good conversation on here and I hope some posters above take time to read the words carefully.

-- Posted by speak-e-z on Wed, May 25, 2011, at 8:49 PM

Thank you for your kinds words and encouragement Karen.

-- Posted by Chunky Peanut Butter on Wed, May 25, 2011, at 9:18 PM

Chunky Peanut Butter

I am VERY impressed with your willingness to share. Your burden is overwhelming...You are on the threshold of making a real differance in this world. You are going to be an excellent teacher when you reach that point of enlightenment. Carry the conviction of change for the better in your heart/soul and you WILL make a real differance in this world. Be kind to your self! Peace and much love my friend!

Speak e-z

I too am very suprised at the turn of this blog. To find some one who willing be civil and respectful here is suprising!!I have been serching for you!!

I am sure that we will always find some thing to disagree about in this paper ...but maybe ....just maybe.....we can interject some sense of civility in the comentary and be a real pervayer of change here. Just maybe!!!

I dont have any life changing answers either,I just know what works for me.

Peace and much love Chunky and Speak-e-z


-- Posted by kaygee on Wed, May 25, 2011, at 11:44 PM

cpb, speak-e-z and kaygee: very, very nice posts. I know some of us have had our differences of opinion, but you folks have shown that we can keep it civil and still express our viewpoint.

-- Posted by doodle bug on Thu, May 26, 2011, at 12:58 PM

I completely agree with "doodle bug". Well said- good posts, good discussion, and good job of respecting others opinions. Perhaps the individulas that posted on this article could give a few others a lesson in how to condut themselves while replying to other posts. God Bless you all and thank you.

-- Posted by mommily on Thu, May 26, 2011, at 6:22 PM

Doodle bug, and Mommily

Thankyou both for your support! Civility and respect for others is in very short supply now a days. We cant change every one BUT WE CAN LEAD BY EXAMPLE!!!

I am grateful for the oppurtunity to pass this on. And I hope thoes of you that carry this in your hearts/soul....a respect for others, will continue to blog here.

Peace and Love


-- Posted by kaygee on Fri, May 27, 2011, at 8:30 PM

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration:

Mike Hendricks
Mike at Night