Defining the root causes behind addictions

A PRACTICAL solution to the problem of drug addiction was presented the 10th anniversary U3A lecture, which was presented by senior clinical psychologist Scott Wood.

EXPERT ADVICE: Fort England-based substance abuse psychologist, Scott Wood, lectured on the importance of treating the problem instead of blaming the solutions people find which work for them in dealing with life at last week’s U3A lecture held at Settlers Park Picture: LEBOGANG TLOU

Wood has practiced at Fort England for the past 20 years, and his expertise is in treatment of substance abuse problems.

He began by specifying that there is “nothing a human does that is wrong for them”, and – rather than blame the presence of substances, proposed through his lecture that people begin looking to the roots of the problem, which trace back to the age of three years old when the average child hardens to life’s realities.

“There is the misconception that to take a substance makes you an addict to the substance, and this is wrong,” Wood said. “Addiction has little to do with the substance. Addicts need to find some way to keep going, to keep balanced. If you’re going to treat addiction, make sure you are dealing with the issues which lead to the addictions.”

According to Wood, whatever the substance of choice is – be it nicotine, or food, or a banned narcotic substance – that they serve a function; and this function, generally, is to make the user feel good. Over time, tolerance builds – and so the addict would find themselves requiring more doses of substances to maintain the supply of “feeling good”.

“What is addiction? Addiction, most of the time is a result of medications,” Wood said. “There’s nothing which a human does that’s wrong for them. That’s the thing about substances: they work. They work so well, that people start using more.”

He said the urges or motivations behind addictions are generally the reasons behind why the individual person would wish to feel good, which vary and diversify, taking into consideration the uniqueness of all people. Wood explained that addicts are, atypically, people whose lives have adapted to the presence of the substance of their choice in such a manner that to stop would trigger withdrawal symptoms, which easily leads straight back into addictive patterns.

In his own style of facilitating psychological healing, Wood pays attention to personality – which is established in a person’s life as early as the tender age of seven years old, where most people learn the social benefits of not saying “no” – opening the door to peer pressures, added social conditions and personal experiences which tend to trigger addictions to substances.

Wood advocated “empathy, not sympathy”, explaining that empathy is when you try figure out the root triggers through positioning yourself in the shoes of another, while sympathy is when you act and react from a place of feeling sorry for them.

“My job is not to feel sorry for people,” said Wood. “We ask people to face issues which they have not dealt with in a long time.

“Don’t give up on people, bud don’t enable them either,” Wood concluded.

Also at the U3A meeting, Meryl Howes presented two cheques of R1 000 each to the NSRI and the SPCA, as a donation of proceeds generated by the U3A. The U3A’s membership has steadily grown over the years to its current 145 members.

“Thank you all,” Howes said sincerely. “Long may Port Alfred continue growing.”

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