Power and Control Issues in Addiction

Power and control issues can be all too common in addiction, addiction treatment and later recovery efforts. They come from various sources and manifest in multiple ways. One of the chief origins of power and control issues is the loss of control that occurs in a substance problem. However, other circumstances of life can rob any of us of control from time to time such as unexpected losses and trauma.

An Overwhelming Urge

One of the most characteristic symptoms of addiction is a loss of control over the compulsion to use a substance. A compulsion is an overwhelming impulse or urge to do something even when one does not want to do it. This is true of many people who have substance problems. It is common to hear that people have wanted to stop using long before they were successful in doing so. It is also common for addicted people to make many unsuccessful attempts to quit before they finally do.

Cravings and Compulsion

This compulsion to use is complicated by cravings that develop after the brain and body become adjusted to the presence of an addictive drug in the system. When use stops, or the usual dose is lowered, withdrawal symptoms occur. The distress of withdrawal symptoms causes a high risk of using again to relieve the distress.

Other Symptoms of Addiction

Loss of control over substance use manifests in other ways, too. For example, in addiction one frequently uses more substances than intended during an episode of use. Another is that people often use for a longer period of time than they originally intended. These and all other symptoms of addiction occur for both physiological and psychological reasons. The body develops a tolerance for substances, needing more as time goes on, and one also becomes emotionally and mentally dependent upon use to cope with daily life and stressors.

Feelings of Powerlessness and Addiction

Loss of control leaves us with feelings of powerlessness, but these do not limit themselves to being powerless over substance use. Feelings of powerlessness seep into all aspects of our lives eventually as addiction progresses. We lose our ability to problem-solve, make decisions, think rationally, have mutually supportive relationships, and lead productive lives. It is natural to scramble for control when our lives are slipping out of our grasps. However, as long as the addiction continues, we cannot successfully have self-control or the ability to manage the many aspects of our lives that could be under our control.