What Is Addiction?

Addiction is a traumatic situation that can affect anyone who is taking alcohol or drugs. So, what does addiction mean to the person? If you are addicted to a substance such as alcohol or drugs it can have a very debilitating effect on you or someone you might know.


People that are addicted to a substance are people that engage in the use of substances such as alcohol, or drugs such as opiates, cocaine, amphetamine, sedatives, benzodiazepines, phencyclidine (PCP), hallucinogens, inhalants or cannabis.

These give a pleasure factor that compels the user to repeatedly pursue the addiction despite the detrimental consequences that can be involved.  There has been much scientific evidence gathered that many substances which cause addictions share a key-factor in the neurobiological system of the body/brain barrier.

These addictive substances cause an intense reaction in the brain’s pathways of reward and reinforcement, which results in addiction. This condition is caused by the neurotransmitter Dopamine.


Dopamine has been established by researchers and can be traced back to addiction. When an addict has the expectations of scoring, the brain releases Dopamine and this causes the addict to steal, cheat, and lie in order to get the next fix of the substance they crave, whether that is alcohol or drugs.


This causes the physical addiction because Dopamine triggers thoughts, memories, emotions, deceptions and many other symptoms involved with addiction. Dopamine belongs to the Catechol-amine and Phenethyl-amine families. These compounds have an important role in the body/brain barrier of addiction.

Dopamine acts as a precursor to Epinephrine and Norepinephrine. These make up the adrenaline that controls how the body feels when a person is suffering withdrawal.

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Addiction to drugs and alcohol is often a progressive process as the addiction usually starts with social use. As time passes, the person will start to exhibit a higher tolerance for the substance and will frequently involve themselves in behavior that is unusual for them.

This can be because of intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms. If you or someone that you know is struggling with an addiction to a substance seek advice now. Below we will list some of the more common signs of addiction.

Withdrawal Symptoms of Addiction

  • Weight loss and clothes not fitting properly.
  • A change in the addict’s eating habits.
  • Their appearance becomes pale and there are signs of being undernourished.
  • The symptoms of a cold, such as excessive sniffing or a runny nose.
  • Depending on the type of substance, the person will become overactive or underactive.
  • Dilation or the pupils or bloodshot eyes.
  • Repetitive speech patterns.
  • You may notice unusual odors on clothes or on the breath.
  • Excessive body odor due to a lack of personal hygiene.

Behavioral Symptoms of Addiction

  • Missing urgent appointments and engagements.
  • Often skipping work or school.
  • Working and education problems.
  • Conversations that are dominated by using the substance or related topics.
  • Relationship problems with friends or a partner or family.
  • Problems with criminality due to stealing in order to fund the addiction.
  • Financial worries where they are always asking for money.
  • Isolating themselves.
  • Being secretive about activities.

The Emotional Symptoms of Addiction

  • Diversion away from the signs of addiction in conversation.
  • Blaming others or an event for the addict’s behavior.
  • Admitting only minimally to the signs of addiction by not acknowledging its seriousness or the problems seen with the consequences of their behavior.
  • Denial of a substance dependence and the signs that you’re an addict when asked about it.
  • Obnoxious behavior and conversation.
  • Losing interest in people and activities that are a normal part of the routine of your or their life.
  • Easily confused by subjects that are normally easy to discuss.
  • Defensiveness regarding whether you’re an addict.
  • Being irritable or even argumentative.
  • The inability to handle and cope with stress.

Other Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

One of the main symptoms of addiction is the constant usage of a substance, leading to distress or an impairment. Another sign is using the substance for a longer period or in larger amounts than what is considered usual.

If you find that you try to cut down or stop taking it and cannot, then you have likely developed an addiction. You might find that you have a strong urge or constant craving for the substance. If you use it continually despite the knowledge that it is causing you physical or psychological problems, you should seek assistance for addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

So how long do withdrawal symptoms last? Withdrawal symptoms can last for a short period of time, but for alcohol they can last a lifetime.

What helps with withdrawal symptoms? Getting back to your routines or family and friends can help immensely. Participating in group therapy or finding a new hobby can work wonders as well.

Causes of Addiction

What are the main causes of addiction? In the past professionals considered addiction to stem from a person’s moral failings or a weakness of willpower. With new advances within the research field, scientists have come up with theories that state addictions are a biological brain sickness. This is now widely accepted in the medical profession. It is however, still considered as a controversial point of view.

Many professionals still prefer to take the position that it is a condition that needs a continued management, rather than calling it a brain sickness. This is because this promotes the idea that addiction can be managed via behavioral changes, where the person’s ultimate control over the condition is willpower. The real cause of addiction is more than likely within the brain’s neurotransmitters.

Causes of Addiction

The sickness model can gain support because of the changes that occur within the brain when continued substance use is present. Through the process known as Adaptation, the brain tries to adapt itself to the presence of the addictive substance in its effort to function in a normal way. The sickness model is the real cause of addiction. 

In the beginning, people who take these substances make the initial choice to do so. This choice is more than likely a voluntary action. Over time, however, behavioral choice in the brain is lessened as neurobiological changes occur. These changes that modify a person’s initial responses to an addictive substance also regulate the development of cravings, which is what causes addiction.  Suddenly, the substance doesn’t become something they voluntarily choose to take, but something they have to take. 

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is related to the part of the brain in charge of incentive, motivation and reward. It is a key-factor in drug addiction. When an addictive drug is taken the brain and its pathways release excessive amounts of Dopamine. This produces surges that cause euphoria, a strong behavioral reinforcement for the substance.

It also causes cravings and the compulsion to perform certain behaviors and rituals that will be involved with the substance addiction. In these surges the brain adjusts by reducing the Dopamine production, but also the receptors that can receive the signals. When Dopamine becomes depleted it reduces a person’s ability to experience the pleasures, so more is needed. This is the sickness that is the real cause of addiction.

Types of Treatment

For many of the people suffering from addiction, the first step they need to take is acknowledging their struggle with dependence. The next step is finding a treatment program that will aid and help in restoring their well-being, overall health and their happiness without the addictive substance.

There are many options for treatment available. For example, a person with a severe addiction would enter a detox program before they transition to a rehab. Others might choose to recover at an outpatient or inpatient facility. After they have undergone treatment it is advised to continue with reinforcement of the lessons learnt in the rehab by attending therapy and support groups.

Outpatient Rehab

A mild substance abuse addiction when caught early enough can quite often be treated successfully in an outpatient rehab clinic. An outpatient treatment program is an ideal option for anyone that is motivated enough to stop their addiction. It also gives the flexibility of a program that can work around the person’s daily schedule.

If you enter an outpatient rehab for rehabilitation from alcohol or drugs, the treatment sessions can be scheduled for you at various times throughout the week. This type of treatment allows for you or someone you know to continue with their regular work responsibilities. It also allows them to continue living at home, where they can get crucial support from family and friends.

Addiction Rehab

They are, however, required to check in for treatment at the specified times for any medication and therapy sessions. Outpatient treatment comes in a variety of forms and they differ in levels of intensity. They offer you an array of services. The general focus is on therapy and counselling, education on substance abuse and addiction, and also providing you with a network of support workers.

You will find treatment a blessing because you will be able to look at why you used the substance, rather than figuring out how to use the substance on a daily basis. If you have a strong will to succeed in giving up your addiction and are committed, a disciplined approach will benefit you with an outpatient drug treatment program.

Inpatient Rehab

Getting over an addiction that is severe is not only dangerous to do on your own in the initial stages, but you or someone you know is more likely to suffer a relapse later on. Inpatient rehab offers a monitored type of environment. Inpatient rehab provides rehabilitation where the addict will get the specialist treatment that is needed. It will also give emotional support to overcome the alcohol or drug addiction. Inpatient rehab offers the highest levels of treatment.

It includes medically supervision for detoxing and gives you a 24/7 care and support program. There are many inpatient rehab facilities, providing you plenty of options for care. These are all run by experienced staff, but the type of therapy and amenities offered can differ. It is important that you find the one that suits your addiction, so you can get over it with the right recovery process.

Addiction Rehab

Inpatient rehabilitation centers are a residential treatment, meaning you are a patient that lives in the facility for differing lengths of time. Depending on the program for the rehabilitation process, stays usually last for at least a month, but can potentially be a few months. Most of the inpatient rehab centers offer a family program.

This is where family members of the patient can participate in a family counselling session and other activities. This gives the time needed for the recovery process to mend the trust and to identify dysfunctions in the relationships between family members, which can go a long way to preventing relapses later on. In this way, a family can offer support and encouragement for their loved one by being able to be actively involved in the recovery process.

Alcohol Addiction Rehab

The first step that is needed is to admit that there is a problem that exists. At this point, if it is severe then an inpatient rehab can be considered. If you suffer an alcohol addiction, then coming to terms with this can help stop the destructive cycle of the addiction with help from an alcohol rehabilitation center. The sooner you can admit to the problem, the sooner you can start with a suitable treatment program.

The alcoholic rehab program will start with detoxification. Detox is a necessary part of your program before rehabilitation can begin. Why? This is because all traces of alcohol must be removed from the body so as the patient can focus entirely on treatment and rehabilitation.

Drug Addiction Rehab

Treating drug addiction can be divided into 3 parts. A drug rehab can be very beneficial in helping with these 3 steps. First of all, comes detoxification, which is the process of cleansing the system of the substance abuse.  Once this has been addressed the next stage is to deal with the psychological aspects via drug addiction rehabilitation.

Drug Addiction Rehab

This will help to understand the root causes of the dependency, then seek to put into place measures that ensure they do not relapse back into the addiction.

Inpatient treatment sees an addict staying onsite at a drug rehab dedicated facility that is staffed by highly trained professionals. These will be on hand 24/7 and will ensure that the suffering addict’s needs are met on an individual basis. The needs of the patient will be met fully and as appropriately as possible in the drug addiction rehab.  This will see the patient through the first two phases in safety and in maximum comfort.

Addiction Treatment Programs

The most popular types of treatment for addiction that are available vary. The most popular of these is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It was first introduced to deal with depression but is now used for addiction treatment programs. It is used in both outpatient and inpatient addiction treatment plans. 

In addiction treatment plans, the goal of CBT is to help a recovering addict to learn of a healthier way of dealing with the stressful situations and the psychological and emotional traumas that were likely large factors in developing their addiction.

Put simply, CBT has been founded on the idea that you can change the way a patient thinks, then teach them new strategies that correct behaviors that are stopping them from leading a happy and fulfilling lifestyle. CBT can be used in a variety of therapeutic settings, such as counselling sessions and group therapy, relapse prevention classes and family counselling.

CBT happens to be one of the most common forms of studied psychosocial interventions for substance addiction treatment. In clinical studies, it has shown to be consistently helpful with developing new coping strategies that are a crucial part of inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment.

Addiction Treatment Centers

It is important for you to find a drug or alcohol treatment center that has the experience to treat you with the right types of inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment. Treatment that is specific to your addiction and any types of co-occurring disorders that can develop is crucial to overcoming a dependency.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free and confidential information service. 24/7 for 365 days a year, it offers information and referral services for families and individuals that know of someone suffering a substance addiction disorder. It is available in English and Spanish. The services they provide refer you to local treatment at facilities suitable to you, such as support groups and community-based organizations.

The referral service is free of charge and if you have no insurance or you are underinsured, they will refer you to the state office. This office is responsible for providing a state funded treatment program. They can refer you to both a drug addiction treatment center and alcohol addiction treatment center.

All in all, alcohol and drug addiction can be a very damaging situation for you or someone else’s lifestyle. It not only affects the person, but the friends and family around them. There are many approaches to getting help with an addiction and the types have been mentioned here. Your level of addiction will be a large factor in deciding whether you need an inpatient or outpatient service. If you suffer from an addiction, seriously think about getting the many types of help available to you. The best starting point for looking for help is to contact SAMHSA for confidential advice. All they may ask for is a zip code for a general location. Most rehabs offer the type of services you require, and SAMHSA will be able to locate one local to you and one that is suitable for your needs.

Once you have managed to overcome your addiction, many treatment centers provide guidance and planning for services after you have left rehabilitation. Should you ever feel like you are going to relapse contact SAMHSA’s helpline to make sure you get advice and support to help you through those moments.


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