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This series by Eric Litwiller of the Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas looks at mental health in the Wichita area. It is in conjunction with the Wichita Journalism Collaborative.

Commentary: When It Comes To Mental Health, Common Addictions Can Be Dangerous

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During the course of the pandemic, many Wichitans have attempted to cope with the daily stressors and uncertainty by doubling down on addictive behaviors without realizing just how dangerous even common addictions can be. Physical addiction is so named because it involves the use of substances that physically change our bodies’ cells to the point where those cells are no longer capable of functioning normally without those substances. This may involve drugs as nefarious as heroin or methamphetamine, or as seemingly innocuous as our daily cup of coffee. The result is physical pain and sickness when we no longer provide access to the drugs to which our bodies have become accustomed. Yet this withdrawal is still the lesser of two evils when compared to the long-term effects that such drugs can have on our lives.

Psychological addiction creates no physical alteration to our bodies, but instead releases the pleasure chemical dopamine when we perform a certain act. Eating a piece of chocolate, buying a pair of shoes, logging onto our favorite social media site. Although the act or substance is not objectively addictive, using or performing it releases the dopamine that causes our pleasure centers to light up, while simultaneously requiring more and more of the activity simply to get the same effect. The time, money, or resources taken up by such substances or activities can quickly begin to interfere with our ability to perform the normal functions of daily life, such as eating, sleeping, or going to work. If you are worried about someone you love, please find resources for them today.

Links to more information can be found at MHANational.org. KMUW’s mental health series is in conjunction with the Wichita Journalism Collaborative.

Eric Litwiller is the director of development and communications at the Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas.