04/01/04 — Substance abuse task force points to many types of additions

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Substance abuse task force points to many types of additions

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 1, 2004 2:02 PM

Addictions are growing at a tremendous pace, but not all of them are in the form of drugs or alcohol.

WATCH's Substance Abuse Task Force says that sex, on-line pornography and gambling can be just as addictive but are much more accepted by society.

Joyce Kelly of the task force says the problem is prevalent, particularly with the popularity and availability of the Internet.

"It's affordable, accessible, anonymous," she said.

On-line pornography has become a widespread concern in recent years. Studies have shown that pornography is as addictive as cocaine and alcohol.

What is the difference between normal sexual behavior and an addiction? Ms. Kelly said an addiction is something that makes a person do things he didn't want to do, resulting in remorse and shame.

"According to our research, one of the big things is to tell somebody about it," she said, "because the secretiveness and shame that 'I'm not OK' is the part that helps the person keep the addiction."

She said that the most common origins of sexual addiction are child abuse and shame. An estimated 80 percent of those deemed sex addicts experienced some form of child abuse during the developmental years. But not always in extreme forms.

"Most people think of the obvious forms of abuse such as beating a child or forcing a child to have sex," Ms. Kelly said. But there are also subtle psychological factors that can cause long-term effects, which cause a person to later "act out."

Ms. Kelly said there are an estimated 40 million sex addicts in the world, one-third of them are women.

"Women are doubly hidden because women are not seen that way," Ms. Kelly said.

Habits like gambling can also be as pathologically addicting as a chemical dependency, Ms. Kelly said.

"They cannot stop until they have run out of money, lost relationships, friends, possession and even jobs as a result of gambling," she said.

The task force has collected a resource list of tools for assessing possible problems with the various addictions, as well as referrals for help.

There are a number of support groups that meet, plus on-line self-help assessments and hotlines to call.

The closest support group for Sex Addicts Anonymous meets on Tuesday evening in Greenville. For information, call 1-800-456-1286, extension 1974. The Web site is www.sexaa.org

For Gamblers Anonymous, the closest support group in North Carolina is in Raleigh. The hotline number is 1-704-552-4633. For questions about compulsive gambling or other addictions, a toll-free number is 1-800-522-3784.

Web sites recommended are www.gamcare.org.uk/selfhelp.php or www.gamblersanonymous.org

The local task force meets monthly, discussing various addictions, and annually hosts seminars on smoking cessation and substance abuse. "Families and Substance Abuse" is the theme of one planned for April 20 from 6 to 8 p.m. in Moffatt Auditorium at Wayne Community College.

The public is invited to the free seminar, which will feature speakers on topics ranging from prevention and treatment, to detoxification and dual diagnosis. Free handouts will also be available.

For further information about the seminar or the task force, call 734-1579.