Spotting Addictive Behaviours Early


Would you like the joke of the day? Joke of the day? This chap just coming up to his hundredth birthday, and the family are wondering what else to give him for a present. Until some bright spark suggested sending him around a hooker and so they did.  On the day in question she comes on, she knocks on the door and says, “Yes?”And she says, “I’m here to give you super sex!” and he says, “Oh, oh, oh, thanks. I’ll take the soup.”

There has to be fun in recovery otherwise it’s not worth having. If we go from being gloomy and doomy and all the rest of it, to being gloom and doomy, what’s changed? It’s Anthony Hopkins who’s glad for himself to be known as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, who says that “If we can’t be as gloom, doom, ginger ale and Jesus, I don’t want it.” Now give or take the Jesus. I’m not making a point nor is he about Christianity but what he’s making a point about is the capacity to change, to really enjoying one’s life, having the crack. And for those of you who don’t know what crack is, it’s spelt C R A I Q is it? C, C R A I C. It’s the Irish word for having a crack. You know, going for it, having the fun and you’ve got to have that in recovery.

Every so often you meet this chap in recovery, “I haven’t had a drink for twenty years.” And you think ”Why not?” What was the point of getting into recovery if that’s what it’s going to be like.  It has to be fun. It has to be, you know, what’s like is all about.

Now, let’s look at this love. Spotting early addiction, the book that I wrote on identifying addictive behaviour in childhood was written for the children themselves, age six, seven and eight because you can diagnose children with addictive problems at that age, long before they’ve ever used an addictive substance or process.

You can see the characteristic behavior. You can see the tendency to be isolated. You can see the fact that they’ve come from an addicted family. You can see them being easily hurt. They’re miserable the whole time.  They feel that life’s been particularly unfair to them, if it’s either easily frustrated, “I want that one.” “Okay, have that one.” “No, I want two of them” “Okay, then have two of them.” “No, I want the blue one.” “Alright, have the blue.” No, I want the one that Lucy’s got.”Oh, Jesus.

You can see their frustration. You can see those characteristics coming out at the age of six, seven and eight. Now you might say, “Well, all children are like that.” And it’s true. They are to some extent. An addictive child is adolescence written large, written in capital letters. It’s the adolescent from hell, and you will see that aged six, seven and eight.

Now, by and large, that child will be diagnosed, aside of being depressed or having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. I am not too keen on this diagnosis. I was very glad yesterday to receive a letter from a consulting psychiatrist, who’s had considerable experience of looking after juveniles. And he said time and time again, the people that we see as addicts have been diagnosed as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder when they we’re younger.

Now there’s a trap there that you need to be careful about because people say exactly the same about bulimia being related to early childhood sexual abuse. And it is true that many people with bulimia have been sexually abused in childhood, but that doesn’t mean that sexual abuse led to the bulimia. What I’m afraid it does mean is that there’s a lot of sexual abuse. Because there’s lots of people has been sexual abused who didn’t become bulimic. So you cannot say that the abuse led to the bulimia, that A led to B. it didn’t.

Equally, you cannot prove that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder necessarily leads to addiction, but unlike the association between abuse and bulimia, the relationship between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and addiction is much close.

Time and again, we see patients who have been diagnosed as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder patients. And you do see if you follow them up that they do develop addicted tendencies.

The proof that I think is absolute, is that ADHD gets better when you prescribe Ritalin. Well it would. Ritalin is an amphetamine. And people with an addictive tendency do very well on amphetamines. They do very well on cocaine. They do very well on heroin. They do very well on any mood altering drug. Consequently, the very fact that it does get better on Ritalin is evidence to me that it is the forerunner of an addictive tendency.

If you give a normal child amphetamines they just go wild. If you give somebody who’s got an addictive potential, amphetamines they actually feel better. Because the inner craving, the inner emptiness is being satisfied.

So the way to diagnose children, is not to go searching their bedrooms for funny shaped envelops or strands of cocaine or a burnt spoon or whatever. Just look at their behaviour and you will see it. Exactly the same is true for companies.

Don’t go looking for anything out and doing random drug test or alcohol test or whatever, just look at your personnel files. If you look at the personnel files, you will see, totally unreliable, they don’t understand time table, clients perpetually let down, high incidence of death of grandmothers and other causes for absenteeism. Sectaries who just can’t work with them, “Lovely fellow but I just can’t work with him.”

So, you see the consequences of their behaviour of the addictive potential, coming right across the board and you would see exactly that in childhood.

Now the middle classes like their children to do well at school and therefore we have a number of diagnoses which explain when our children do not. Dyslexia is one, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is another one, depression is the third.

We love to have these explanations that account for our children to have a particular problem that we can understand and we can say, “Ah, no I understand it. Now it explains everything.” And I don’t make myself terribly popular when I say, “We’ll actually that child is an addict in the making.” Well you can understand then, none of us votes for that. We don’t want our children to have an addictive potential. We want the problem to be either with the school or with something intellectual such as dyslexia or whatever. I’m not saying dyslexia doesn’t exist, it does. But what I’m saying is that it’s vastly over- diagnose same as myalgic encephalopathy, ME “yuppy flu” is vastly over-diagnose.

And there are people who genuinely have got ME as result of exposure to the Epstein-Barr virus. And they get very depressed and they can’t cope and all the rest of it and they have genuine ME. But it’s what I call a band wagon disease. Other people jump on that band wagon and say, “Yes, I’ve got it to.” And there’s no evidence for it.”Well I feel tired and I feel lonely and I feel this, and I feel that” And they’re all trying to jump on the band wagon of people who have genuine illness. And the same thing happens with dyslexia, and the thing happen with ADHD, and other reasons for childhood disturbance.

And quite commonly what we find is the actual cause behind it was an addictive nature.