About Addiction

Understanding Addiction

What is Addiction

Addiction is a disorder which causes malfunction of the brain’s reward circuits. Up to 60% of addiction sufferers have probably inherited the disorder genetically (National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2010). Other people may have damaged their reward system by overusing it. Consequently, people with this disorder seek to reinforce their blunted reward feelings by seeking out substances or processes which will increase pleasurable feelings. Once this happens, someone with a genetic susceptibility to the disorder will have knock on effects, or chemical cascades, to other parts of the brain affecting things like judgement and impulse control. This is why addicts or alcoholics cannot control their using. Addiction is a chronic condition (American Society of Addiction Medicine, 2011) which means that it lingers, and symptoms will return if it is not treated.

 American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) – definition of addiction
 National Institute of drug Abuse (NIDA)

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Types of Addiction

Young man sitting at the bar

Addiction does not just involve chemical dependency (dependence on drugs or alcohol). A modern understanding of addiction is that it encompasses a range of highly stimulating behaviours which are potentially addictive. We refer to these as ‘process’ addictions. Process addictions include; gambling, compulsive sexuality, compulsive overeating and many more.

Our rehab centres – The Cabin utilizes an ‘all addictions’ model which means we see both substance and process addictions as part of the same disorder. This is backed up by recent research into the neurobiology of addiction by medical bodies like ASAM and NIDA. So, if you are suffering from a gambling disorder or addictive process other than drug or alcohol addiction, and the consequences of those behaviours are serious, then you may need treatment. Treatment for these disorders follows the same lines as treatment for chemical addictions.

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Treatment Types – Outpatient vs Inpatient

Treatment for addiction occurs in inpatient or outpatient settings. People suffering from severe substance use disorder (drug and alcohol addiction) often need medical supervision because some substances can cause severe symptoms during withdrawal. These people require treatment in Inpatient settings such as residential detox and rehab facilities (see our inpatient rehab centre)

Outpatient addiction treatment typically takes place in addiction specific counselling centres or ‘dayhabs’ as they are commonly known. This model of treatment is usually appropriate for people who are suffering from addictions but who are still functional.

Clients who attend outpatient treatment here at our centre in Hong Kong  are still able to attend their jobs and family lives, because most of the sessions are held out of office hours. Some of our clients have a need for both inpatient and outpatient, and so they will attend The Cabin Dayhab after attending our inpatient facility initially.

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How is Addiction Treated

Addiction treatment is conducted using a bio/psycho/social model. That means it is widely accepted by medical and psychological professionals that there are biological, psychological and social components to the illness, each of which need treating.

Medical Treatment

People suffering severe substance use disorders are advised to always seek medical advice as close medical supervision is vital to a safe detox. However, for people with less severe addiction issues, medical treatment may feature less in their overall treatment or may be unnecessary. On staff at The Cabin Hong Kong is a psychiatrist who can assist with detoxes should the client’s treatment require it.


Psychological Treatment

Psychological and social aspects of addiction can be effectively treated using recognized and evidence based counselling models:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – focuses on increasing psychological health by learning to dispute what are known as ‘thinking errors’ or irrational ways we perceive and make meaning out of situations. Thinking errors are a main cause of the dysfunctional emotional states which are symptomatic of addiction (ASAM 2011)
  • 12 Step Fellowships – 12 Step fellowships focus on treating the social/psychological aspects of addiction via ‘fellowship’ meetings which are peer run support groups where members use a common lexicon of recovery and learn to ‘identify’ with other people recovering from addiction.
  • Meditation/Relaxation Techniques – There are many techniques of meditation which concentrate on building the brain’s ability to focus and concentrate, producing a more balanced brain chemistry which is necessary for recovery from addiction. You can even expand the idea of meditation to include physical activities which increase feelings of wellbeing, such as yoga.

In any intensive addiction treatment setting this work is done using one to one therapy between you and a counsellor, and also in group therapy, where peers can gently challenge or ‘dispute’ each other’s thinking patterns and learn off each other in a mutually supportive environment.

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