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 consequences.
People can get addicted to all sorts of substances. When we think of addiction, we usually think of alcohol or illegal drugs. But people become addicted to medicines, cigarettes, even glue.
Some substances are more addictive than others: Drugs like crack or heroin are so addictive that they might only be used once or twice before the user loses control.
Addiction means a person has no control over whether he or she uses a drug or drinks. Someone who's addicted to cocaine has grown so used to the drug that he or she has to have it. Addiction can be physical, psychological, or both. Signs that you or someone you know may have a drug or alcohol addiction include:
- Use of drugs or alcohol as a way to forget problems or to relax
- Withdrawal or keeping secrets from family and friends
- Loss of interest in activities that used to be important
- Problems with schoolwork, such as slipping grades or absences
- Changes in friendships, such as hanging out only with friends who use drugs
- Spending a lot of time figuring out how to get drugs
- Stealing or selling belongings to be able to afford drugs
- Failed attempts to stop taking drugs or drinking
- Anxiety, anger, or depression
- Mood swings
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Feeling shaky or sick when trying to stop
- Needing to take more of the substance to get the same effect
- Changes in eating habits, including weight loss or gain
If you think that you or someone you care about is addicted to drugs or alcohol, recognizing the problem is the first step in getting help. Many people think they can kick the problem on their own, but that rarely works. Find someone you trust to talk to. It may help to talk to a friend or someone your own age at first, but a supportive and understanding adult is your best option for getting help.
Many people fear the term addiction and believe it is an indication of failure or worthlessness. People with addictions often carry stigma about their behavior, leading to shame and fear of seeking help. All types of addictions 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. The world is changing, and you may find that getting help for your addiction is the best thing you ever do for yourself. In the meantime, we hope that educating yourself will help on your journey to wellness.