Alcohol, tobacco, drugs, gambling, shopping, sex, food, video games, internet and work are the 10 most common forms of addiction. What characterizes these forms of addiction? And how can we understand this phenomenon?
When we think of addiction, most of us think of alcohol and drugs. Indeed, alcohol addiction costs just America $250 billion a year, 2 billion people have problems with alcohol worldwide and 185 million abuse drugs. 1 70% of violent crime is enacted by someone under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 2 90% of muggings and theft are related to drug use. 2
But alcohol and drugs aren’t the only crippling addictions. 1 out of 8 Americans are addicted to something. 2 Addiction statistics are scarce because many destructive habits are not yet officially recognized as addiction. Among them, gambling, eating and internet use are problematic for many. The 10 most common addictions are alcohol, tobacco, drugs, gambling, shopping, sex, food, video games, the internet and the addiction to work.
This legal intoxicant is incredibly destructive for both the individual and society at large. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that alcohol is linked to more than 60 types of disease and injury: it causes 20-30% of worldwide incidences of esophageal cancer, liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver, epilepsy, murder and motor vehicle accidents. It causes 1.8 million deaths and contributes to 58.3 million of life years worldwide that are lost to disability. 4
Alcohol use is on the rise and is a common factor in violent crimes, including spousal and child abuse.
Tobacco still holds first-place ranking as the substance that causes the most health damage worldwide. 1.3 billion deaths occur because of tobacco addiction annually. In 2002, WHO reported that smoking caused over 90% of the lung cancer cases in men and 70% of the cases of lung cancer in women, 56-80% of the cases of chronic respiratory diseases and 22% of the cases of cardiovascular disease. 5
Tobacco causes 8.8% of deaths worldwide and 4.1% of life years lost to disability. Tobacco use is rising worldwide and is expected to cause 10 million annual deaths by 2020. 70% of those deaths will occur in developing countries. 5
The United Nations estimates that 185 million people worldwide were consuming drugs in the late 1990’s. 6
Both prescription medications and illegal drug use is on the rise throughout the world. Many addictive prescription medications such as OxyContin and Vicodin have become as common as marijuana use among young people. 6
Children, especially, make use of volatile organic solvents such as cleaning products, paint, glues and nail polish remover. 7
Drug trade threatens the lives and social fabric of many communities and cultures.
The most heavily used drugs are cannabis, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines.
Cannabis is still the most widely grown, trafficked and used illegal drug and seizures of the crop occur in almost every country in the world. 2.5% of the world population consumes cannabis every year and its use has grown faster than cocaine or heroin abuse.
Marijuana has been linked to the youth culture in almost a rite of passage.
Cannabis impairs cognitive development and physical performance and raises the risk of motor vehicle accidents. It can permanently impair memory and mind, exacerbate schizophrenia, cause bronchial damage and impair fetal development.
Cocaine and crack use occur in 1-3% of the population in developed countries and producing countries and addiction rates have caused many medical and social problems including the spread of crime and disease, violence and fetal exposure.
The worldwide production of heroin has tripled since 1985 and it is estimated that there are 9.2 million users. Heroin users face 20 to 30 times higher risk of death than non-drug users and the spread of diseases like HIV and hepatitis follow in its wake.
The WHO reports that there has been pronounced production and increase in use of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS). Methamphetamine use is so widespread and so much in the media that it has become part of cultures worldwide, giving young people a skewed sense of acceptance and safety about their use. There are now about 20 countries in which the use of ATS is more prevalent than that of heroin and cocaine combined.
Gambling addiction is on the rise, partly due to accessibility and partly due to a change in acceptability. Today, gambling is available in every corner store and on the Internet. It’s sanctioned by the government and is a source of income for humanitarian social programs.
The top 7 most common forms of gambling are: 12
- National lottery and scratch cards
- Football pools
- Other lotteries and raffles
- Fruit machines in pubs
- Horse racing
- Casino gambling
Eating disorders are also on the rise and include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and compulsive eating.
Many of the eating disorders that exist today may be due to the abundance of food available and its mostly unhealthy nature. Media advertisements, the fast-food culture, along with conflicting messages about unattainable and unrealistic ideas of body shape cause many to engage in dysfunctional eating habits that can lead to food addictions.
Many parents recognized the addictive nature of video games in past decades. They are said to affect grades and are linked to ADD. A 2007 study found that “almost 1 out of every 10 youth gamers show enough symptoms of damage to their school, family and psychological functioning to merit serious concern.” 13
Video games are becoming more and more appealing to adults as well. One stuy found that 44% of gamers are between 18 and 49. 13
The advent of online gaming and virtual worlds has caused gaming addictions to reach new highs, especially in Asian nations. These worlds allow one to build or assume another identity and interact with others, heightening the addictive nature of the games.
Internet addiction is another global concern. The rise in many other addictions can be traced to the advent of the Internet. Gambling, shopping, sex addictions are among them and anorexics have been known to create web sites with “helpful tips” for other self-starving people.
Internet addicts spend more and more time on the computer at the expense of relationships with friends and family, risk their jobs and academics, may become indebted, feel unable to stop spending so much time on the Internet, feel guilty and act secretive about it and experience symptoms of withdrawal when they are away from their computers.
Types of Internet addiction include gaming, cybersex, social networking, shopping, gambling and information mining.
Media and the Internet contribute to the rise of sex addicts. They use sex as a drug to escape from reality, relieve anxiety or fulfill compulsions.
1-6% of the population suffers from compulsive shopping. 12 We all overspend occasionally but the compulsive shopper gets into serious financial trouble and risks relationships over their addiction.
They may get an initial thrill from a purchase that quickly fades into guilt and depression and then they try and treat their feelings with more shopping.
Karachi means “death from overwork” in Japanese, where 10,000 people die every year from putting in too many hours. 12
The spread of a consumer culture across the globe contributes to this drive to attain the most money one can and lots of money becomes linked to status and self-identity.
Overwork is looked upon as a positive characteristic but in reality, it destroys the health and relationships of many.
1)WHO Staff (2009). Substance Global Burden. World Health Organization [online]. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/facts/global_burden/en/index.html
2) Brainz Staff (2009). 10 Surprising Facts About Addiction. Brainz.org[online]. Retrieved fromhttp://brainz.org/10-surprising-facts-about-addiction/
4)WHO Staff (2009). Alcohol. World Health Organization [online]. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/facts/alcohol/en/index.html
5) WHO Staff (2009). Tobacco. World Health Organization [online]. Retrieved fromhttp://www.who.int/substance_abuse/facts/tobacco/en/index.html
6)Brainz Staff (2009). 10 Surprising Facts About Addiction
7) WHO Staff (2009). Other Substances. World Health Organization [online]. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/facts/volatilesolvent/en/index.html
8) WHO Staff (2009). Cannabis. World Health Organization [online]. Retrieved fromhttp://www.who.int/substance_abuse/facts/cannabis/en/index.html
9) WHO Staff (2009). Cocaine. World Health Organization [online]. Retrieved fromhttp://www.who.int/substance_abuse/facts/cocaine/en/index.html
10) WHO Staff (2009). Opiates. World Health Organization [online]. Retrieved fromhttp://www.who.int/substance_abuse/facts/opiates/en/index.html
11) WHO Staff (2009). ATS Facts. World Health Organization [online]. Retrieved fromhttp://www.who.int/substance_abuse/facts/ATS/en/index.html
12)Addiction Hotline of New Jersey Staff (2009).Types of Addiction. Addiction Hotline of New Jersey [online].
13)Gonsalves, Antone (2007, April 2). Report Documents Video Game Addiction. Information Week [online]. Retrieved from http://www.informationweek.com/news/internet/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=198701937