What is Addiction?

Addiction is the compulsive, physiological need for and use of a habit-forming substance that the user knows to be physically, psychologically, or socially harmful. It is characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon cessation of abuse or the substance – anyone can suffer from it, it knows no boundaries and affects individuals regardless of gender, race, religion, profession or social class.

 

Substances that often lead to addiction include:

  • Street drugs or prescription pharmaceuticals
  • Nicotine
  • Alcohol

It also comes in other forms and can be applied to certain behaviors that are carried out in excess:

  • Shopping
  • Dieting or overeating
  • Working
  • Drinking
  • Exercising
  • Smoking

 

Scientific advances over the past 20 years have shown that drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease of the brain that results from the prolonged effects of drugs on the nervous system.  In addition, addiction has embedded behavioral and psycho-social aspects that are important parts of the disease itself. Thus, effective treatment must include physiological (i.e., medical) and psychological (i.e., behavioral) components.