Breathing Space London

mindfulness for health

What is addiction?Person on bench

An 'addiction' describes the compulsive use of a substance (like alcohol or drugs) or a behaviour (like gambling) that has a negative effect on someone's life. It may be easy to kick a habit in the short-term, but much harder to 'stay stopped'. The good news is that there are several ways to tackle this problem. Mindfulness Based Addiction recovery (MBAR) at Breathing Space is a meditation-based course that helps you become more aware of the habits of thinking that can lead into addictive behaviour. Book now

Are you addicted?

Being addicted to something - alcohol, drugs or other substances - is not so much about the amount you are using, but the negative effects this use has on your life. A generally accepted 'test for addiction' is if three or more from the following list applies to you:

  • A strong desire to use the substance
  • Difficulty in controlling the amount you use
  • Withdrawal symptoms if you stop using
  • Developing an increasing tolerance for the substance, so that you start using more
  • A waning interest in other activities and pleasures
  • Continuing to use the substance even though you have already noticed the harmful effects to your health

What causes addiction?

There are many differing views on why some people get addicted to substances. Addiction seems to come about due to a number of factors including:

  • Genetics: Some people may inherit a tendency to dependence on substances.
  • Childhood experience and abuse: Recent research suggests that painful early life experiences can be a major factor leading to someone's addiction.
  • Social pressures: Alcohol, drugs and other potentially addictive substances are ready available in our society, and many people use them. Some people, particularly teenagers, may feel the need to join the crowd and conform by taking whatever substance those around them are using.

It's important to dispel the myth that some people get addicted because they lack willpower or intelligence. People may start using a substance as a way of coping with difficult feelings like pain, grief or fear. It gives an immediate 'fix'. But it's only short-term - once the effects have worn off, the difficult feelings come back. This can then lead to a downward spiral; the dependency itself creates more painful feelings, and the only way to deal with these is by using more. Over time, an addictive habit can be formed, which starts to take more control of someone's behaviour. The dependency can take centre stage in life, with the rituals around it becoming a familiar routine. People may then become secretive about their dependency and be afraid to ask for help.

Mindfulness Based Addiction Recovery at Breathing Space

Help with giving up and staying stopped

Links to information and advice about addiction