Gwen’s husband Alex has been acting suspicious and withdrawn lately. He isolates himself from her and the kids and just sits in his office staring at the computer. He won’t come to bed and stays up late on line. When she asked him about it, Alex just said that he’s had to bring a lot more work home lately. Gwen let it go a while, but one day, she finally got up the nerve to check her husband’s history file on his computer. What she found were several subscription online pornography sites. Gwen was devastated. What could she do?
Mark is worried about his wife, Bethany. She hasn’t seemed like herself since the dental surgery she had four or five months ago. She was on pain killers for a few weeks while she healed and during that time, she was drowsy a lot of the time and had difficulty concentrating. Mark didn’t think anything of at first, after all, that’s what pain medication does. Even so, he expected the lethargy and poor concentration to go away once she stopped the prescription. It did get better for a few weeks, but then the symptoms all came back. Beth has been sleeping a lot while the kids are in school and she just isn’t keeping up the way she used to. Sometimes he catches her just staring off into space. She says she’s “just a little tired.” She gets upset when Mark pushes the issue and insists “nothing’s wrong” and that he’s just being “controlling.” Is he?
Bill and Alicia are worried about their 21- year-old son Joe. A couple of months ago, Joe and his friends started visiting the local casino to try their hand at poker, after watching some shows on TV. It seemed harmless enough at the time, but now all Joe talks about is becoming a professional poker player. He spends more and more time at the casino, and is always broke. Joe works at a local car repair shop. Recently, Joe’s boss wrote him up for falling asleep under one of the cars Joe was working on. Joe said he’d been out too late but he didn’t say where. Bill and Alicia think they know.
We are told that doctors have not yet cured the common cold because the virus that causes them mutates so easily and so often. Addiction seems to behave in a similar fashion. It used to be that we only heard about alcoholism and drug addiction. Then we discovered addictions to sex, overeating, gambling, shopping and the internet to name a few. Sometimes, it can seem as though all these addictions are just a marketing gimmick developed to keep treatment centers full and addictions counselors something to do. If only that were true.
In any given year, approximately 8.5% of the general US population display symptoms associated with alcohol addiction. Drug abuse afflicts another 5% of Americans. There are signs that the picture is only going to get worse. A recent study of college students found that binge drinking and other substance abuse has reached record levels–even for that population–with one out of every four college students engaging in regular and serious chemical abuse. As recreational gaming leaves Atlantic City and Las Vegas, the rate of compulsive problem gambling is soaring. For instance, in states where gambling is legal, compulsive gambling ranks with drug abuse with up to 5.4% are lifetime pathological gamblers. This is compared to 1.7% for other states. Similarly, many treatment programs that have sprung up to help people deal with internet addictions–especially addictions to online pornography–have waiting lists. Approximately 10% of computer users admit to engaging in compulsive online behavior that seriously jeopardizes work or important social relationships. Like the virus that causes the common cold, addiction is a mutating problem that is easily spread but not easily cured, and under the right circumstances, it can even be deadly.
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