If you happened to watch “The Wolf of Wall Street,” where substance abuse and addictions to sex, cocaine and drugs, including Quaaludes, Adderall, and Xanax, sum up the 179 minutes of the film, you might have got a pretty good idea of the toxic, disruptive and ultimately destructive lifestyle an addiction creates.
Inspired by the true story of 1990s stock broker Belfort played by Best Actor nominee Leonardo DiCaprio, the movie provides an excellent opportunity to learn about various psychiatric conditions, namely personality disorders and substance-induced conditions that pave the way for addiction and complete dependency, the extreme state where few things matter to a drug addict except for the drugs they take.
Although the causes of substance abuse and addiction can be diverse, from mental health disorders and genetic predisposition to lifestyle and social influences, they usually find common ground in the inability to cope with and manage negative emotions.
What starts as experimentation – a phase commonly accepted and seen as harmless even in younger people – or to reduce one’s behavioral, emotional, and physiological response to stress or an emotionally debilitating situation – can quickly become regular use.
Take alcohol, for example, the most commonly used addictive substance in the world. Consuming in moderation may even be good for you and calm you down; consuming in excess can cause irreversible damage. The thing is, that that very positive reinforcement experienced during this phase can quickly propel someone into the next stage, and this transition may be hard to detect.
“A good indicator is when you begin to prioritize alcohol or drug use over other facets of your life and are unaware or do not fear the consequences of your behavior, says Dr Pablo Tobajas, Psychiatrist at Bonaire Salut and CEO of Bonaire Bespoke Recovery. The clear warning signs of this phase are: experiencing physical or psychological cravings, depression/irritability, and fatigue if one cannot fulfill their cravings.
On a biological level, repeated exposure to a substance often leads to hyper-sensitization – meaning that the user will experience greater pleasure the next time they try the substance. At this point, the drug has become a reward for the body that will crave for it at greater intensity and frequency. And it is this biological need combined with the psychological craving that paves the way for addiction, and one slips into full dependency before they even know it.
If you reach this point, probably nothing else really matters to you. This is the phase of ongoing use regardless of the negative consequences that severely impact your physical and mental health. You may perform poorly at work, lose your job and relationships or even engage in criminal activities.
Seeking treatment and entering recovery is usually the result of a life-changing event, like reaching a rock bottom- arrest or detention, near-death experience, loss of a loved one, or major financial losses.
One reaches a point one could have never imagined when it all began. The emotional crater is huge and deep, and it is a point of almost no return unless the addict can identify their problem and be willing to do something about it.
“It is never too late to be what you might have been”
Eventually, despite his addictions and criminal ways, Jordan Belfort Jordan turned his life around. He recovered and regained control of his life and now earns a living as a legitimate and successful motivational speaker.
Although progressive and terminal, addiction is, thankfully, also treatable. However, the withdrawal and detoxification process from alcohol, recreational and prescription drugs is challenging to go through. The brain and body will crave the level of substance they were used to receiving and that leads to several physical and psychological symptoms, from nausea, depression, anxiety, insomnia and even seizures.
If you have been able to identify with any of the above, it may be time to reach out for professional help. The best approach to therapy is the holistic one, that aims at treating the whole person – mind, body and soul – and the most effective avenue for doing so is inpatient treatment which allows clinicians to establish how an addition developed and address all the causes that lead to it so that addiction does not have to be a path of no return.