What is Addiction?

Simply put, addiction is the repetition with an activity or substance to evoke a pleasurable outcome, despite the harm the activity or substance might cause. Examples of addictive activities include excessive shopping, pornography, sex, the internet, and gambling, while substance addiction pertains to things like drugs, nicotine, binge eating, and prescription medication (when misused).

The repercussions from addiction are not only internal, but they can extend outward and affect every aspect of a person’s life, from their home and family life to problems in the workplace.

The most obvious areas impacted by addiction are failing health, damaged relationships, and devastating financial burdens.

But the disease has other less-obvious ramifications that are just as detrimental to an individual’s wellbeing, as the addiction consumes all their time, energy, and every waking thought.

When the problem progresses, they feel powerless to stop it, and the constant quest for instant gratification can ultimately steal their peace and joy.

What Are the Symptoms of Addiction?

Symptoms of addiction can vary greatly, depending on the person and the severity of their addiction. Most maladies are plainly evident, but some can be hidden just beneath the surface, depending on the source of the problem.

Drug and alcohol abuse symptoms include red eyes and dilated pupils, headaches, insomnia, weight loss, stomach ailments, pale skin, change in eating habits, trembling, sweating, body odor due to indifference to personal hygiene, temporary blackouts, memory loss, and repetitive or slurred speech.

Addictions to certain activities, like pornography and the internet, usually show up as puzzling behavioral changes involving isolation, secretiveness, legal issues, and defensiveness. The addict may also:

  • Lose interest in socializing with friends and family
  • Live in a constant state of denial
  • Empty bank accounts to support their habit
  • Try to rationalize by offering excuses for their behavior
  • Convince others to pose as an alibi to avoid confrontation
  • Blame someone else or an event for their odd behavior
  • Avoid discussion of the problem by always changing the topic
  • Take serious risks, like driving under the influence or socializing with “shady” individuals they wouldn’t normally associate with

Causes of Addiction

In many situations, drug abuse stems from taking prescribed medications. Relying on doctor-prescribed opioid painkillers following a major surgery can lead to addiction – and death. In the United States alone, the overuse of opioids causes more than one hundred deaths every day. Drug experimentation may begin out of curiosity or from succumbing to peer pressure.

Others turn to drugs and alcohol to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Mental health issues are extremely common among substance abusers and studies have shown over 50 percent of drug addicts have one or more severe mental health disorders.

Another cause of addiction is growing up in an unstable home environment where drug and alcohol consumption takes place.

If parents treat substance abuse as no big deal, then a young child or teenager will view it the same way, and this can quickly get out of hand and lead to many destructive behaviors.

Children raised in abusive households (whether physically, verbally, emotionally, or sexually) have a greater tendency to develop addictions than children who never experienced the trauma caused by frequent abuse.


Numerous medical studies show that certain biological risk factors can be responsible for making some individuals more prone to addiction than others. Genetics plays a huge role in this, as does gender, social standing, and ethnicity. Did you know that:

  • Researchers are constantly studying the link between addiction and family history, which is to blame for up to 70 percent of abuse risk.
  • Teenagers who struggle with bullying in school, feeling excluded and homework stand a greater chance of trying drugs and having an addiction problem when they become adults.
  • The younger a person is when they try their first mood-altering drug puts them at a higher risk of developing a substance abuse problem when they’re older.
  • Injecting substances and smoking them can impact the progression of an addiction because the brain registers the effect more quickly than other methods of delivery.


As previously stated, there is a substantial link between addiction and mental health. People diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression, and other similar mood disorders are twice as likely to suffer from addiction, due to using drugs and alcohol as a means to cope with mental health problems.

Other psychological factors that can lead to addiction include:

  • Having attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Having a social anxiety disorder
  • Being a schizophrenic or having other psychotic disorders


The people, places, and things we are exposed to on a daily basis can sometimes determine whether or not addiction occurs, especially if they are negative influences. Some examples of detrimental environmental factors include the following:

  • Living in a poverty-stricken community: Limited resources and opportunities to better oneself can often lead children (and adults) to substance abuse.
  • Criminal activity in the home: Children whose parents are involved in illegal activities have an increased risk of developing a substance abuse problem.
  • Peer pressure: When kids associate with other children who tempt them with alcohol and drugs, they are more susceptible to giving into peer pressure as a way to impress their friends.
  • Exposure at school: If drugs and/or alcohol is prevalent on school property, children are more likely to experiment and risk becoming addicted.

On the other hand, when children are subjected to stable relationships, positive parental support and supervision, drug prevention policies at school, and a sense of closeness in their community, they will usually acquire the self-restraint needed to avoid addiction.

Treatment of Addiction

While addiction is a serious, and often life-threatening, condition, there are ways to treat it, and many times these treatments can be catered to meet certain individual needs.

Dependency affects many areas of a person’s life, and the most effective and lasting solutions are comprehensive ones that address all of these areas to insure a complete recovery.

Some common therapies include:


For people who are physically dependent on drugs or alcohol, detoxing is a difficult but necessary step to promote healing. This process most often takes place in a short-term rehabilitation facility, where the individual can be closely monitored by medical professionals in a comfortable and safe environment while they’re dealing with withdrawal symptoms.

12-step Programs

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are two of the most popular 12-step programs, but there are a multitude of other programs covering a wide variety of addictions, including gambling, sex addiction, and eating disorders. One reason these group support programs are so popular is they’re free to join and the anonymity allows people to share their recovery in private with other addicts who understand what they’re going through.

Inpatient Rehab Treatment Center

Many addicts find success through inpatient treatment center programs, which take anywhere from three months to one year to complete.

They’re especially helpful because they provide a variety of services, including individualized therapy sessions and 24-hour assistance by a trained medical staff.

Some inpatient rehab centers can be costly, but they’re wonderful for people who want to heal in substance-free surroundings without triggers and temptation or for those who don’t live in a safe environment at home.


Through outpatient services, an addict attends weekly scheduled appointments with a doctor and/or therapist but spends most of their time recovering own their own. These programs aren’t as structured as inpatient treatments, but they’re ideal for those who have a stable home life to recover in.

Recovery from Treatment

Recovering from addiction treatment is a long and difficult process, but it can be done. Your most valuable asset is having a strong support system and not attempting to deal with it on your own.

Be willing to ask your friends and family members for help. You can also find the support you need through online forums and chat rooms, support groups in your community, and medical experts.


Substance abuse not only affects the addict but the people they’re closest to suffer the consequences also. These support groups can help immediate and extended family members and friends cope with a loved one’s addiction:

  • Al-Anon
  • Nar-Anon
  • Families Anonymous
  • Co-Dependents Anonymous
  • Parents Anonymous
  • Adult Children of Alcoholics

Below are some of the many 12-step support groups to aid in recovery. More can be found by doing an online search for “12 step programs” and “addiction recovery support groups”.

  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Narcotics Anonymous
  • Overeaters Anonymous
  • Gamblers Anonymous
  • Sex Addicts Anonymous
  • Nicotine Anonymous


Social media is a great way to keep in touch with family and friends, but it can also leave you feeling alone and isolated. Make face-time a priority and spend some quality time with those you love.

Find a good listener who is attentive to your needs and will listen to your problems without judging you.

One surefire way to keep the blues away is to do something special for someone else. Spread the love by volunteering at a local nursing home, women’s shelter, or soup kitchen.

Although it’s tempting to hide from the world when you’re sad, make an effort to get out and socialize. Being around other people can dramatically lift your spirits.

Get a pet. Many studies show that caring for an animal eases depression, so go to your local animal shelter and adopt a furry friend to love on who will love you unconditionally in return.

Search online for a support group specializing in depression. Being around others who share your problems can help you cope and heal.


Whether it’s giving up cigarettes or putting down the bottle, don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Find a close friend you can check in with often to stay accountable and who will give you the encouragement you need.

Avoid temptation by doing away with your triggers. Be vigilant and stop buying the cigarettes, beer, fatty foods, or whatever is keeping you addicted. Out of sight – out of mind.

Don’t overwhelm yourself from the get-go. Set a reasonable goal and stick to it. Make a list of what you want to accomplish and keep it somewhere you’ll see it every day, like your refrigerator or bathroom mirror.

Stay busy to avoid giving in to temptation. Join a gym or start a book club. Go back to school and get your degree. Take up a new hobby. Just do something to keep your hands and mind occupied.

Recite positive affirmations every morning as soon as you wake up. It might seem awkward at first, but practice encouraging yourself as much as possible to help you stay inspired and motivated.


If your relationships with friends and family have suffered because of an addiction problem, try mending them with these simple steps:

Go to therapy together. It can feel daunting, but talking to a therapist has helped many couples heal the wounds caused by addiction.

One of the most important steps in every 12-step program is the one where you make amends to those you’ve wronged. It takes courage, and you have to put your pride aside, but the end result is so worth it. Ask for forgiveness and apologize to those you’ve hurt and be sincere. There are other ways to make amends too, such as paying people back after stealing money or paying off a debt.

If you have people in your life who tempt you with peer pressure, find a new group of friends. Seek out those who want to see you succeed and who support your efforts to maintain your sobriety.

Acknowledge your mistakes and start taking responsibility for your actions. Don’t blame others for your transgressions.

Be considerate. Don’t pass judgment and listen attentively to others without interrupting.

Be involved with your loved ones. Participate in their lives instead of sitting on the sidelines. Plan activities everyone will enjoy and take an interest in their hobbies.

Be a giver and not a taker. Offer support and encouragement whenever possible to show your loved ones how much they mean to you.