A chronic condition that can negatively affect your quality of life causing mental and physical problems is called addiction. Substance use disorders and behavioral addictions are two forms of addiction. However, this condition is treatable and it is recommended to get treatment immediately if you experience it.

What is Addiction?

When people experience this condition they are seeking continuously substances or perform activities nonetheless harmful consequences. Once you get this chronic condition, it is lifelong. This health condition can seriously impact your health (such as relationship problems). That’s why it is advised to seek medical care as soon as you notice any addiction symptoms.

Is Addiction a Disease?

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), addiction is a chronic brain disorder. However, this disease does not appear due to certain bad decisions or lack of willpower. The brain’s chemistry changes with addiction.

Addiction Types

Substance Addictions

Physicians call this addiction (substance addiction or substance use disorder). However, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has diagnostic criteria for this addiction type. The substances that provoke addiction can be prescription, nonprescription medicines, recreational drugs, and others. Check below some examples:

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana (cannabis)
  • Hallucinogens (including PCP and LSD)
  • Caffeine
  • Anxiolytics, sedatives, and hypnotics (including sleeping medicines, Benzodiazepines, and Barbiturates)
  • Prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) opioids (such as codeine, oxycodone, and heroin) and stimulants (such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and others)
  • Tobacco (including smoking cigarettes and electronic cigarettes (such as e-cigarettes or vaping)

Previous substances that provoke addiction are different but they all have activating the brain’s part responsible for producing pleasure feelings. Substance use disorder can vary from mild to moderate, and severe. In any case, addiction is considered the most severe form of a substance abuse disorder.

Non-substance Addictions

As per studies, behavioral addictions happen when people do any activity that stimulates the brain’s reward system. However, experts continue studying the differences between addiction types and compulsive behavior diseases (such as obsessive-compulsive disorder-OCD and bulimia nervosa).

At this time, DSM-5 does not include any other behavioral addictions due to a lack of research. Check below some examples of behavioral addictions:

  • Eating
  • Gambling
  • Exercising
  • Dieting
  • Shopping
  • Shoplifting
  • Having sex
  • Viewing pornography
  • Video gaming (internet gaming disorder)
  • Using the internet (such as on a phone or computer)

Additionally, the most common substance addiction is alcohol use disorder. Thereafter, there are nicotine and marijuana. Roughly 10% of people in the United States aged 12 or older have alcohol use disorder.


The symptoms usually differ among people. Check below some examples:

  • Inability to stop – Commonly, people are not capable of stopping taking substances nevertheless they want to stop. In most cases, it is approximately impossible to reduce substance use. Moreover, they can lie to their loved ones or hide it.
  • Increased tolerance – It means that over time to get the same effect, an individual will need an increased dose of substance or activity.
  • Intense focus on the substance or activity – Those who suffer from addiction become preoccupied with the substance or activity more and more. It means they spend more time obtaining, craving, and thinking of their substance or activity.
  • Lack of control – People with addiction commonly feel helpless because they lose control over their substances or activities thoroughly. Furthermore, some people also may feel depressed, guilty, or overwhelmed.
  • Personal and health problems – This health condition negatively affects physical and mental health, relationships, careers, and others.
  • Withdrawal – Those who suffer from addiction and stop may experience some withdrawal symptoms. For example, shaking, sweating, vomiting, anxiety, irritation.


However, several factors contribute to developing addiction. Usually, an individual experiences addiction due to certain brain chemistry changes. The activities and substance use affect the brain (the reward center).

In addition, we are biologically motivated to get rewards. Therefore, some rewards can come from healthy behaviors (such as spending time with a loved one) but others can come from bad habits. When you feel pleasure, the brain releases a chemical called dopamine. Hence, it becomes a cycle to seek out substances or activities that give you good feelings.

A person experiences a massive surge of dopamine when using substances as well as having sex or spending money. However, these large amounts of dopamine can damage your thoughts, feelings, or behavior. As a result, it may lead to an unhealthy drive to find more pleasure. However, over time these activities and substances provoke that change in the brain’s chemistry. It means you will need more to get the same effect. For example, the opioid withdrawal symptoms are very severe and produce serious motivation to continue administering them. Check below for additional factors that can contribute to addiction development:

  • Environmental factors – One serious risk factor is access to substances. Another significant risk factor is adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which mean certain traumatic or stressful events in childhood. ACEs also can contribute to or even cause different health problems including addiction.
  • Mental health conditions – Addiction is linked with different mental disorders (including post-traumatic stress disorder-PTSD, bipolar disorder, depression, and others). Approximately 50% of people who experience a mental disorder also will suffer from addictions (such as substance abuse disorder-SUD) and vice versa.
  • Genetics – As per studies, genetic factors also can provoke SUD.


Doctors will perform a physical examination, and blood and urine tests first. Thereafter, they can refer you to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or alcohol and drug counselor. Additionally, healthcare professionals may also ask your loved ones about your substance use or behavior problems.


Addiction treatment usually involves a combination of therapies, medicines, and others. Check below some treatment methods:

  • Support groups – For example, Narcotics or Alcoholics Anonymous are very effective groups that help people manage their addiction.
  • Therapy – Psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, or group therapy can help people with addiction gain new perspectives and change behavior.
  • Rehabilitation (Rehab) – Physicians may suggest this treatment option. During rehab, people get structured counseling, education, support, and encouragement. They help to manage addiction for a longer period of time.
  • Medicines – There are some medications that help to decrease urges, cravings, and withdrawal symptoms. For example, if you are experiencing bipolar disorder or depression, your doctor may treat these mental disorders with medications.
  • Hospital management – Certain special hospitals can help to monitor and treat while you experience withdrawal symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to prevent an addiction?

The following tips may help you to prevent an addiction. Examples include:

  • Healthily managing stress (such as exercising, meditating, learning new hobbies, and others)
  • Family history – In case you have a family history of substance use disorder or behavioral addictions, you are more likely to develop one. Discuss with your doctor about methods to reduce the addiction risk.
  • Limit or avoid substances that have potential addiction

How do addictions develop?

Usually, physical addiction happens when consistent use of a drug tends to change the way your brain feels pleasure. It means that, over time to get the same pleasure you will need an increased dose. Talk with a healthcare professional if you suspect you have an addiction.

What are the most common addiction causes?

In most cases, this condition is provoked by chronic stress, trauma history, mental disorders, and a family history of addiction. Ask your doctor if you have any additional questions.

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