the definition of addiction?
An addiction is a chronic dysfunction
of the brain system that involves reward, motivation, and memory. It’s about
the way your body craves a substance or behavior, especially if it causes a
compulsive or obsessive pursuit of “reward” and lack of concern over
Someone experiencing an
- be unable stay
away from the substance or stop the addictive behavior
- display a lack
- have an
increased desire for the substance or behavior
- dismiss how
their behavior may be causing problems
- lack an
Over time, addictions can
seriously interfere with your daily life. People experiencing addiction are also
prone to cycles of relapse and remission. This means they may cycle between
intense and mild use. Despite these cycles, addictions will typically worsen
over time. They can lead to permanent health complications and serious
consequences like bankruptcy.
That’s why it’s important for
anyone who is experiencing addiction to seek help. Call 800-622-4357 for
confidential and free treatment referral information, if you or someone you
know has an addiction. This number is for The Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Services Administration (SAMHSA). They’ll be able to provide more information,
including guidance on prevention and mental and substance use disorders.
are the types?
to U.K. charity Action on Addiction, 1 in 3 people in the world have an addiction of some
kind. Addiction can come in the form of any substance or behavior.
most well-known and serious addiction is to drugs and alcohol.
Nearly 1 in 10 Americans have an addiction to both. Of the people with a drug
addiction, more than two-thirds also abuse alcohol.
most common drug addictions are:
or behaviors that can trigger addiction
2014, Addiction.com, a website devoted to helping those with addiction, listed the top 10
types of addictions. Besides nicotine, drugs, and alcohol, other common
- coffee or caffeine
- anger, as a
sex, and work addictions are not recognized as addictions by the American
Psychiatric Association in their most recent edition of the Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
habits or social behaviors look like addiction. But in the case of an
addiction, a person will typically react negatively when they don’t get their “reward.”
For example, someone addicted to coffee can experience physical and
psychological withdrawal symptoms such as severe headaches and irritability.
are the signs?
Most signs of addiction relate
to a person’s impaired ability to maintain self-control. This includes changes
- social, such
as seeking out situations that encourage a substance or behavior
such increased secrecy
- health related,
such as insomnia or memory loss
- related to
Someone with an addition won’t
stop their behavior, even if they recognize the problems the addiction is
causing. In some cases, they’ll also display a lack of control, like using more
Some behavior and
emotional changes associated with addiction include:
- unrealistic or
poor assessment of the pros and cons associated with using substances or
- blaming other
factors or people for their problems
levels of anxiety, depression, and sadness
sensitivity and more severe reactions to stress
telling the difference between feelings and the physical sensations of one’s
Addictive substances and
behaviors can create a pleasurable “high” that’s physical and psychological.
You’ll typically use more of certain substances or engage in behaviors longer
to achieve the same high again. Over time, the addiction becomes difficult to
Some people may try a
substance or behavior and never approach it again, while others become
addicted. This is partially due to the brain’s frontal lobes. The frontal lobe
allows a person to delay feelings of reward or gratification. In addiction, the
frontal lobe malfunctions and gratification is immediate.
Additional areas of the
brain may also play a role in addiction. The anterior cingulate cortex and the
nucleus accumbens, which is associated with pleasurable sensations, can increase
a person’s response when exposed to addictive substances and behaviors.
Other possible causes of
addiction include chemical imbalances in the brain and mental disorders such as
schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. These disorders can lead to coping strategies
that become addictions.
Experts believe that repeated
and early exposure to addictive substances and behaviors play a significant
role. Genetics also increase the likelihood of an addiction by about 50 percent,
according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
But just because addiction
runs in the family does not necessarily mean a person will develop one.
Environment and culture
also play a role in how a person responds to a substance or behavior. A lack or
disruption in a person’s social support system can lead to substance or
behavioral addiction. Traumatic experiences that affect coping abilities can
also lead to addictive behaviors.
are the stages?
Addiction will often play
out in stages. Your brain and body’s reactions at early stages of addiction are
different from reactions during the later stages.
The four stages of
uses or engages out of curiosity
- social or
regular: uses or engages in social situations or for social reasons
- problem or
risk: uses or engages in an extreme way with disregard for consequences
uses or engages in a behavior on a daily basis, or several times per day,
despite possible negative consequences
are the complications?
Addiction that’s left
untreated can lead to long-term consequences. These consequences can be:
- physical, such
as heart disease, HIV/AIDS, and neurological damage
and emotional, such as anxiety, stress, and depression
- social, such
as jail and damaged relationships
- economic, such
as bankruptcy and debt
Different substances and
behaviors have different effects on a person’s health. Serious complications
can cause health concerns or social situations to result in the end of a life.
do you treat addiction?
All types of addiction are
treatable. The best plans are comprehensive, as addiction often affects many areas
of life. Treatments will focus on helping you or the person you know stop seeking
and engaging in their addiction.
Common therapies include:
- medications, for
mental disorders such as depression or schizophrenia
including behavioral, talk, and group therapies
services, to help treat serious complications of addiction, like withdrawal
- addiction case
manager, to help coordinate and check ongoing treatment
- self-help and
You can also visit your
primary care doctor for an evaluation. The type of treatment a doctor recommends
depends on the severity and stage of the addiction. With early stages of
addiction, a doctor may recommend medication and therapy. Later stages may benefit
from inpatient addiction treatment in a controlled setting.