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Addiction Part 1

Posted by Eamonn Brady on

Ask The Pharmacist 

Eamonn Brady is a pharmacist and the owner of Whelehans Pharmacy, Pearse St, Mullingar. If you have any health questions e-mail them to

Causes of addiction
This is the first of three articles in the Examiner on addiction. Addiction is a strong and uncontrollable urge to take substances like drugs or alcohol or carry out activities like gambling or sex. Common addiction is to alcohol or drugs, but can be anything from gambling to “less harmful” products such as fizzy drinks or addiction to the likes of work or the internet. Thus addiction can be substance dependence (e.g. alcohol or drug addiction) or behavioural addiction (e.g. gambling, sex, work, and video game addiction). 

 Causes of addiction are varied and complex and due to a combination of mental, physical, circumstantial (eg. being introduced to a drug when young and prone to peer pressure) and emotional factors. Repeated use of an addictive substance is thought to change the way the brain experiences pleasure which can lead to the urge for further and more frequent use


Tolerance increases

  Regular and frequent use or participation leads to the person not experiencing the same pleasure they initially would have experienced and the person needs to keep increasing the dose as the body will develop tolerance to the effects of the addictive substance. 


Risk factors for Addiction

Anybody, no matter what age, sex or social status can potentially become an addict; certain factors increase the risk:

Genetics (family history) – those with a close relative with an addiction problem has a higher risk of eventually developing one themselves.  For example, alcoholics are six times more likely than non-alcoholics to have blood relatives who are alcohol dependent. Some of this is down to copying what your parents do such as drinking heavily

Family life – Young people who do not have a strong attachment to their parents and siblings have a higher risk of developing addiction problems compared to people with deep family attachments.

Gender – Men suffer from addictions more than women. Statistics indicate males are twice as likely as females to experience drug addiction problems.

Link with mental health problems – those with mental health problems like depression, bi-polar disorder, ADHD and other mental disorders suffer from higher addiction rates. In some cases the mental health disorder leads to addiction but in others it is the addiction that causes the mental health problem (alcohol or drugs)

Peer pressure – Especially important in younger people (and many addictions start young). The use of harmful substances is a way of conforming and gaining acceptance with peers.

Loneliness – the likes of alcohol and nicotine becomes a means of coping leading to addiction.

The nature of the substance - some substances, such as heroin or cocaine can bring about rapid addiction.

Age when substance was first consumed - consuming drugs, alcohol and nicotine earlier in life causes higher risk of eventually becoming addicted compared to those who start later.

Stress – High stress levels make a person more prone to use the likes of alcohol to attempt blank out problems and relieve stress.

How the body metabolises (processes) the substance - with alcohol, those who require a higher dose to achieve an effect have higher rates addiction. Some populations have a lower tolerance to alcohol (due to lower levels of the enzyme that breaks down alcohol) and this is blamed for higher alcohol addiction rates in these populations (eg) native Indian population in America and Aborigines in Australia.

Depression information Evening

Whelehans Pharmacy is hosting a Depression Information Evening in the Greville Arms Hotel on Thursday August 6th at 7pm. It is free to attend and all are welcome. The night will be of benefit both to individuals experiencing depression (and addiction) and concerned family/friends. Summary of speakers are:-

  • Exercise and fitness expert Maurice Looby of Maurice Looby Fitness
  • Counsellor Tom Moran of New Beginnings Counselling in Westmeath
  • Pharmacist Eamonn Brady from Whelehans Pharmacy, Mullingar 
  • Clinical Psychologist Dr Claire Hayes, Clinical Director of Aware


You can turn up on the night or book your place in advance by calling Whelehans Pharmacy at 04493 34591.

To be continued….next week

This article is shortened to fit within Newspaper space limits. More detailed information and leaflets is available in Whelehans

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