Addiction combined with a psychological problem

A few beers shouldn’t be a problem, nor should the occasional joint. They can help you enjoy yourself and feel relaxed from time to time. But what happens when you can’t do without them because they make certain problems disappear? Or when your friends and parents notice that it seems like you need a beer or cigarette quite a lot? This might mean that you are addicted to a particular substance, and that you need that substance – like a glass of alcohol – to feel good. This may be the case because you also have another – possibly psychological – problem. Research has shown that adolescents with a psychological problem, like depression, ADHD or anxiety, have a greater risk of developing an addiction.

What is an addiction?

Many adolescents drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes from time to time. But when this happens very frequently in large quantities, it can lead to an addiction. When this is the case, you find it very difficult to not drink alcohol, for example, and you can’t help yourself from picking up a glass. A lot of different substances can be addictive: cigarettes, alcohol, weed, XTC, cocaine and heroin, as well as certain medication. It may be that your addiction is connected to other problems you have, like depression, autism, ADHD or an eating disorder. You might, for example, not feel good about yourself or be constantly fighting with your parents, and drinking a lot of alcohol helps you feel better. Or, conversely, you might have a psychotic episode from smoking too much weed.

Things you might have trouble with in an addiction:

  • Problems with money, the police or hanging around with the wrong crowd.
  • No longer being able to take care of responsibilities at school, work or home.
  • Finding yourself in problematic and dangerous situations due to using the substance.
  • Continuing to use the substance despite the problems it causes for you and your environment. 
  • Growing accustomed to the drug and needing more and more to achieve the same effect.
  • Not feeling well when you don’t take the substance (withdrawal symptoms).
  • Having difficulty not taking the substance.
  • Lying to others about how often you use the substance.

What causes an addiction?

You can develop an addiction as a result of personal problems (e.g. depression, anxiety) or problems related to your environment (e.g. ADHD, autism). These can cause you to begin using alcohol or drugs to make yourself feel better. Or you might have difficulty connecting with others your age, so you take part when they smoke or drink. If you begin to use more and more, this can lead to an addiction. If others in your family have had an addiction, you have a greater risk of developing one.

How common is addiction?

Of adolescents in the Netherlands, 3.8% have an addiction combined with a psychological problem.

Would you like to know more about the treatment of addiction?

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