People use alcohol and other substances or drugs for many reasons. When the consumption of alcohol, substances and/or drugs is inappropriate, there is a problem, i.e. repeated consumption to experience intoxication, cope with stress and/or to change or avoid their circumstances. Improper use may also be characterised by the use of prescription drugs contrary to what your doctor recommends. Addiction is when people can no longer control the urge to use substances or drugs despite the negative consequences of consumption.
An addiction illness is defined as chronic brain disease because alcohol and substances change the brain and how it functions and these changes can be long-lasting and lead to a lack of control and changes in motivation and temperament.
How does addiction manifest itself?
Addiction illness is characterised by:
- Lack of control i.e. more use of the drug or used longer than intended, repeated attempts to reduce or control consumption without success and a lot of time spent on consumption (getting a hold of alcohol/substances, using alcohol/substances or recovering after consumption) and an inability to maintain persistent sobriety
- Addiction/strong desire
- Serious consequences where the consumption causes impaired ability to perform duties, persistent communication problems, reduced social communication and practice of hobbies as well as continued consumption despite causing disruption to health in body and soul.
- Difficulty in seeing significant problems in their behaviour and communications with others.
As with other chronic illnesses, there are periods of recovery and failing in addictive illnesses. Without treatment or commitment in the recovery process, the addiction is progressively worse and can lead to disability or premature death.
Resources in Iceland
SÁÁ outpatient department
The good news is that an effective treatment exists. Most people who seek help and face the problem get a successful result. The treatment can vary greatly, ranging from one interview to an extensive treatment that lasts for weeks, months or years. The correct path for the individual depends on the severity of the problem. If you think you or someone you care about needs help with alcohol or drug problems, you can contact the SÁÁ outpatient department and schedule an interview or contact them by telephone on 530-7600 (see www.saa.is).
Addiction psychiatric ward of the national hospital
The addiction psychiatric ward emphasises on assisting individuals with severe addiction and mental health problems (dual diagnosis). A broad group of professionals works together to identify the biological, psychological and social factors that promote or maintain both diseases. The treatment approach is diversified and depends on the needs and capabilities of each individual. Requests for psychiatric services must be received by a referral from a professional or by sending a request for treatment by mail.
A more detailed list of resources in Iceland can be found here.
Text compiled by Dr Ingunn Hansdóttir, chief psychologist at SÁÁ