addiction used to refer only a a physical dependence on some substance, often caused by morbid overindulgence in a type of vice (often tolerated in limited measure, but held in suspicion), legal or illegal. in my lifetime, the definition has expanded to include various other sorts of behaviour compulsions, often with no physical link- gambling, shopping and even sex all have their addicts.
the most widely accepted method of treating these disorders has become so-called "step" programs, which guide the addict through a series of milestones until they are deemed to have regained sufficient control of their life. (although it's not strictly related, i'd like to add that i've always been skeptical about these sorts of programs, predicated as they are on convincing the addict that he or she has lost fundamental control of their life on a permanent basis, and must adhere to a set of restrictions in order to survive- essentially replacing one type of powerlessness with another.)
this subject came to mind because of an article i was reading yesterday on internet/ email addiction. i'm sure that the statistics in canada- long among the largest users of new technology- and the united states would be roughly the same. while i'm not sure that the article's reliance on personal testimony as to whether or not respondents for email "necessary" to their lives constitutes a scientific basis for the poll (i consider my refrigerator necessary, but i don't believe i'm addicted to it), but i'm willing to say for the moment that it does constitute one more activity that people engage in compulsively. doubtless some of us will be going into group therapy in the near future to share the trauma of our tendonitis from too much typing, receiving group hugs as congratulations for going a week without facebook or my space (don't ask... my record is not good.)
but with virtually everything that can bring even a small amount of pleasure seemingly susceptible to the forming of addiction, i'm forced wonder whether or not the problem is really with the addictions. after all, one of the hallmarks of any addiction is that it represents an advanced sort of escapism. the one thing that they all have in common is that they allow the addict a portal from their everyday life. curing or containing addiction is a laudable enough goal, but at some point, shouldn't we start asking why such a larger number- a majority, it would seem- are so eager to escape?