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Addiction - an introduction

By Laura Trevisan Mauriello In some high powered, fast paced environments in Hong Kong such as banking and finance, some people deal with the necessity to work tireless hours and under pressure by using cocaine or other stimulants, as well as sedatives, hypnotics or anxiolytics. These drugs seem to be socially accepted in the banking and financial industry in Hong Kong and although mood altering drugs are illegal and even a small amount can lead to jail or deportation, there is an easily accessible black market. Equally the school system in Hong Kong exerts a great deal of pressure on teenagers. Alcohol is easily available at any convenience store and for young people it can be the start of a dependency on other substances like marijuana, ketamine if the underlying stress is not reduced. Substance abuse does not just affect the person taking the drugs. It more often than not causes great distress in families as well. Addiction is a complex and multifaced problem with many factors that contributes to its development. It starts when your brain recognizes the pleasure that occurs when using a psychoactive substance. Dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter in our brain, is connected with the sense of pleasure and satisfaction. Some drugs can provide 10 times the amount of dopamine that natural rewards such as a good grade at school, success at work, a good meal or sex can produce. When addictive substances are consumed over time, the brain starts producing less dopamine and eliminates the dopamine receptors. In order to then get the same ‘high,’ a increased amount of the drug needs to be consumed and hence the drug dependency increases. The specific signs of substance abuse can be different for each individual. The emotional, physical and social effects of substance abuse are sometimes not recognized or are often denied. Guilty feelings, shame and isolation can also be a consequence. Anxiety, depression and bad sleep quality are at times also related or increased because of the substance abuse. Even if someone around you or your inner voice is telling you that it is your fault or you lack will power, and you can stop at any time, it is not that easy. No one chooses to be an addict or find themselves with substance abuse disorder. Addiction is a complex and multifaced problem with many factors that contributes to its development. However, the physical and cognitive consequences of addiction can be changed. It may well be you need time out from your life to fully engage in dealing with addiction through a rehabilitation center. Participation in a support group is also an important part of recovery as is ongoing individual support from a trained counsellor both for yourself and with the important people in your life.

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