Top 10 addictions in modern society

We feel that it is very important to make a list of the most influential and significant addictions that damage lives in modern society.

Each community has it’s own norms, standards, stigmas and levels of what is acceptable and what is not, so this list of the top 10 addictions in modern society is in general and changes from country to country.

However, information about the pitfalls that people fall into is always useful so we have identified some of the signs of each addiction and detail some proactive suggestions about what to do about them.

It is also important to consider that the nature of addiction makes it difficult to recognise that addiction in oneself. We obviously don’t like to admit weaknesses in ourselves so denial is the first reaction to many substances and behaviours on the list. Therefore, we humbly suggest that you take a few minutes and check the amount that you use each of these things and see if you are in the “safe zone”.

The safe zone is the average amount of each substance or behaviour that shouldn’t cause harm under normal circumstances. Excessive use of any of the following substances and behaviours could be causing you damage.

1. Coffee

Coffee is an addictive substance.

It is widely used in society and therefore it’s generally acceptable which can open the door to overuse. Research indicates that drinking too much caffeine can cause restlessness, anxiety, muscle tremors, insomnia and irritability.

The safe zone is not more than 5 cups a day or 600 milligrams.

2. Tobacco and Nicotine

Despite the increasing awareness of the dangers of smoking tobacco, it is still the leading contributor to causing health damage worldwide. An incredible 1.3 billion deaths are connected to tobacco annually.

The World Heath Organisation reported that smoking causes 90% of the lung cancers in men and 70% of lung cancer in woman and contributes to almost 80% of the cases of respiratory diseases and 22% of cardiovascular disease.

Nicotine is the addictive substance in tobacco that keeps people smoking and the tar and toxic gases from burning tobacco cause most of the damage. The safe zone is zero amounts of tobacco or smoking is advised.

3. Alcohol

If alcohol was invented in modern times it most certainly would be made illegal in modern society.

Although alcohol has been grandfathered into or contemporary norms it is in fact as addictive and deadly as most illicit drugs. It is scientifically linked to 60 types of diseases including multiple cancers, epilepsy, and contributes highly to statistics on murder and motor vehicle accidents. Alcohol use is increasing worldwide and is abused in societies that permit it.

The safe zone is just 14 units of alcohol per week and that should be spread out over 7 days.

4. Sex addiction

In modern society, new medias and the internet have developed an increase in sex addiction.

Just like the abuse of other substances or practices, sex addicts use it to escape from reality, relieve anxiety or to fulfil compulsions. It is estimated that 8% of men and 3% of women are effected by sex or relationship addiction. For many, sex becomes a compulsive behaviour rather than an expression of love.

It can be connected to low self-esteem and addicts develop unhealthy dependencies on hollow sexual encounters such as one-night-stands or a related practice such as pornography addiction.

5. Illegal and prescription drugs

Legal opiates like OxyContin are particularly relevant at the moment in the U.S. and a good example of how addictive and dangerous prescription medicine can be.

The problem is that doctors prescribe appropriate drugs in good faith but there’s not enough education or support for those who need to stop or when they should stop. In addition, some prescription drugs are highly addictive and it has created an opioid drug abuse epidemic in the U.S. for many people who just need painkillers.

There is also the additional hazard of younger people stealing and experimenting with drugs they can find at home. The safe zone should be exactly what is prescribed in the short term.

Illegal drugs are of course not good for you. Drugs such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines etc., are bought on the black market, which is unregulated, unethical and highly dangerous. Taking illegal drugs is extremely dangerous as the buyer will not know where the drugs were made, what is in the drugs and what will happen after they have been consumed.

The United Nations estimates that 185 million people worldwide were consuming illegal drugs in the late 1990’s. The safe zone is 0 in all cases of illegal drugs.

6. Gambling

While only 1% to 2% of adults develop problems with gambling it still continues to be a significant number of the population.

Compulsive gamblers tend to remember the highs of the wins and block out all the times they lose.

The excitement of the next win distorts their reality and the level of risk they are taking with their money and possessions. 80% of adults have gambled at least once in the past year and although most people have a fun and healthy relationship with it, the safe zone for gambling is if betting losses result in an inability to meet your regular financial obligations or provoke illegal activity, then steps must be taken to change the destructive gambling behaviour.

7. The Internet and modern technology

A recent phenomenon has developed called Nomophobia which means “no-mobile-phone-phobia” and describes the psychological attachment some people have to their modern devices.

According to modern research internet addiction especially affects young people and symptoms include feelings of desperation and anxiety when separated from their phones. It has also been shown that there is a dopamine boost from overusing certain social medias which contributes to the addiction explanation.

An interesting experiment is to ask yourself “how much anxiety would you feel without your mobile phone”?, or to perhaps try to not use your phone for a certain amount of time.

The internet is quickly becoming a virtual conduit to the world and integration of technology, internet and information can become an alternate reality that is more attractive than actual reality.

Internet users are spending a lot more time on their computers and less time with family and friends and can show symptoms of withdrawal or discomfort when separated from computers.

8. Video Games

Online gaming and virtual worlds are causing a huge upsurge in addiction to gaming.

As technologies develops so too does the user experience in gaming and it’s not hard to see how engaging modern gaming can be. While most people associate addiction with substances such as in the last above, doctors are now recognising addictive behaviours as well.

Gaming is similar to gambling in that it elevates dopamine and creates a strong psychological component to the addiction. Just like alcohol addiction is not just physical, the psychological part of the addiction creates the idea that “I can escape and feel good about my life”.

9. Food

Food effects the brain chemistry in the same way that drugs do.

Appropriately 2% of populations have food issues, eating disorders or food addictions. Most eating disorders stem in emotional and psychological issues and because food appears to be harmless and abundant it becomes the focus for abuse. Food can offer comfort, escape and the satisfaction of compulsions or cravings for feelings that arise in daily life.

Like most addictions, addicts are often unaware of their damaging behaviour until something serious happens. It sometimes takes the influence of other people to start to change destructive behaviour.

10. Work

While hard work is seen as a virtue to most people, overworking or “workaholism” can be a mental health condition and often a serious one.

Overworking can often have serious consequences on personal relationships and health yet addicts are unable to stop working, quite easily justifying it as the necessary and the responsible thing to do.

In addition, success from working, gaining fame and money become linked to status and self-identity. While there is nothing wrong with that by itself, the wisdom from the crowd says that a sensible work-life balance is needed to lead a consistent and happy lifestyle.

David Scourfield

David Scourfield is a Camino Recovery team member since 2017, focused on facilitating communication with Clinical and other professionals to ensure a comprehensive understanding of Camino's program.

Combining his marketing skills and lived experiences, he joined Camino in 2017, contributing to external publications and the Camino website. With a strong belief in solidarity during the recovery process, David helps clients build support networks by connecting them with others in recovery.

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