Types of Addiction
Addiction is a complex condition characterized by persistent drug use or problematic behaviors, despite knowledge of the negative consequences. Although substance use may be the activity most commonly associated with addiction, a person is capable of developing an addiction to certain behaviors, such as gambling, as well 1,2. Whether the addiction is chemical or behavioral, compulsive use, diminished control, and significant impairment in the individual’s life point toward the existence of an addiction.
Addiction impacts many parts of a person’s life. Consequences of substance addiction include 3,4:
- Brain changes resulting in drug or alcohol tolerance.
- Impaired learning, decision-making, memory, and judgment.
- Organ damage, depending on the substance used.
- Increased risk of communicable diseases.
- Family strife and child custody issues.
- Work problems, including declining performance, absenteeism, and loss of employment.
- Diminished academic performance.
- Legal issues.
- Financial problems.
Behavioral addiction and substance addiction have a high rate of co-occurrence, suggesting the two conditions may share a common cause 5. The two addictions have similar mechanisms of action in the brain. Both substance abuse and engaging in addictive behaviors targets the brain’s reward system and produces feelings of pleasure 5.
Other similarities between substance addiction and behavioral addiction include 1,5:
- Euphoria resulting from use or behavior.
- Psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms.
- Loss of control.
- Development of tolerance.
- Perceiving mind-altering effects.
- Denial of problems, even with evidence.
Alcohol or Drug Addiction
Substance addiction is a progressive, relapsing condition that is characterized by compulsive alcohol or drug use despite negative consequences 6. Addiction significantly impairs the user’s ability to control or quit substance abuse. Two mechanisms that fuel substance addiction are tolerance and dependence. Someone who has developed tolerance to a substance requires increasing doses to feel the desired effects. Taking ever-increasing doses or taking them more frequently to overcome tolerance can speed up the development of dependence. When someone is dependent on a drug, they need the drug just to feel normal and will often experience some form of withdrawal when use is cut back or stopped. Although dependence and addiction are not the same, addiction is almost always accompanied by dependence as well as tolerance.
While every drug produces different short-term and long-term effects, some drugs lead more easily to addiction. Click below to learn more about each individual substance addiction.
While most people are familiar with substance addiction, research shows that it is also possible for a person to develop a behavioral addiction. A behavioral addiction – or process addiction, as it is sometimes referred to – is similar to a substance addiction in that a person essentially becomes dependent on the pleasurable feelings that certain behaviors (e.g., gambling) bring about, and begins to compulsively act out that behavior to reach that high time and again. A person may be diagnosed with a behavioral addiction if they show loss of self-control over the behavior, including continuation of the behavior despite negative consequences in work or social relationships 5.
Researchers have identified some common behaviors that can lead to addiction. Click below to learn more about each individual behavioral addiction.
- Cell phone and social media.
- Food and eating.
- Love and relationships.
- Pornography and masturbation.
- Video games.
Signs and Symptoms of Addiction
It is important to familiarize yourself with the indicators of addiction so that you can recognize problematic substance use and/or behaviors in yourself or a loved one.
Signs of addiction include 5,7:
- A great deal of time is spent using substances or engaging in the problematic behavior.
- The inability to cut back or quit using or engaging in the behavior.
- A strong desire to use or engage in the behavior.
- An inability to fulfill obligations at school, work, or home.
- Relationship or social problems resulting from use or behavior.
- Previously enjoyed hobbies are abandoned in favor of use or behavior.
- Tolerance to the substance or behavior.
- Withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of use or behavior.
Finding Help for an Addiction
If you believe that you or someone you love may have a drug or behavioral addiction, please call our helpline at 1-888-439-3435. Our trained staff will provide you with information about available addiction treatment options.
- Engs, R. C. (1987). Addictive Behaviors.
- Grant, J. E. (2010). Introduction to Behavioral Addictions.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Drug Facts: Understanding Drug Use and Addiction.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014). Drug Addiction.
- Alavi, S. S. (2012). Behavioral Addiction versus Substance Addiction: Correspondence of Psychiatric and Psychological Views.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Drug Abuse and Addiction.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Substance Use Disorders.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Substance-related and addictive disorders.
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