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Type of text : Opinion
Type of referral : Own initiative
Working group : Social Affairs and Health

Rapporteur(s) :

Qualified Individuals Group
Date adopted : 24/06/2015 | Period : 2010-2015

As far as the World Health Organization (WHO) is concerned, addiction is defined as the inability to control a practice intended to produce a feeling of pleasure or overcome any feeling of unease, and to discontinue such practices despite their negative effects. The object of the addiction gradually becomes a 'crutch' that the person can no longer live without and which takes over their daily life.

Addictions are a public health issue. Indeed, alcohol kills 49,000 people every year and tobacco 73,000. The policy for fighting addiction has produced contrasting results. The three most widely consumed psychoactive substances in 2013 were tobacco (13.4 million smokers), alcohol (8.8 million consumers) and cannabis (1.2 million). Whilst alcohol and tobacco consumption decreased slightly, cannabis use increased significantly, apparently becoming more commonplace among young people and women. Taking cannabis under the age of 18 years, for example, brings with it irreversible health and social effects since the brain has not yet reached maturity at this age. New methods and forms of addiction are emerging, such as the rapid mass intoxication phenomenon known as 'binge drinking', and behaviours can also become pathological, such as gambling, or the excessive use of video games.

Addiction is not an inevitability; it is an illness. Neurobiological research has highlighted the mechanisms common to most addictions and scientific developments in social and medical sciences have helped improve support and care strategies. Quitting entirely and indefinitely, for example, is no longer considered the only possible treatment and relapses are now part of the recovery process. With regard to international classifications, excessive use of video games, social networks, etc. is not classed as an addiction as it does not present any risk of later dependency or a need to withdraw. The practice can, nevertheless, become pathological.

Products such as alcohol and tobacco are distributed by means of targeted marketing initiatives, and new marketing strategies are encouraging the consumption of such products by distorting the strict monitoring of advertising. With regard to social networks in particular, flattering images of transgression and the elation of freedom are indirectly promoting these products.

In France alone, the consumption of psychoactive substances is responsible for over 100,000 deaths a year, that is around one death in six, and although much has already been said and written about addictions, the population continues to underestimate the mechanisms at play, the risks of consuming both legal and illegal substances and the economic, social and health-related costs they entail. Such damage could, of course, be avoided.

As far as our Assembly is concerned, one of the conditions for successfully combating addictive behaviour concerns raising awareness within society of the reality of consuming addictive substances, of the dangers it entails and of the need to engage with those suffering with addictions.