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Definition of Addiction

Drug Addiction | Turning Point of Tampa

Addiction is not something one should take lightly. 

The definition of addiction can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, and can involve anything from gambling and drug abuse to alcohol abuse or substance abuse. Everyone’s journey is different and very personal. It doesn’t matter how a person suffers from addiction, what matters is how a person recovers from it.

If you or someone you know has an addiction, it’s important to seek help. In order to get onto the path of recovery, however, it’s important to first understand addiction. 

So, What Is the Definition of Addiction?

The definition of addiction is: Addiction is a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences. – American Society of Addiction Medicine

In layman’s terms the definition of addiction looks at addiction as one of the few chronic diseases that affect one’s brain system. In drug addiction treatment it is often said that drug addiction is the only disease that a person has that tells them they do not have a disease.

It is the inability to stop alcohol abuse and drug use or the compulsive drug seeking despite the consequences. Alcohol and drug addictive behaviors involve harmful consequences. Gambling, over or under eating, sex, and a variety of other drugs can have a person develop addiction.

It’s about craving for a substance or behavior where there is a lack of concern over consequences so long as the brain satisfies the compulsive or obsessive pursuit of the “reward.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) – addiction is such a common and severe chronic condition that in 2019, in the United States alone, nearly 50,000 deaths were caused due to substance misuse and drug misuse.

People who suffer from this use disorder and mental illness also experience cycles of relapse and remission. In simpler terms, they might cycle between mild and intense cravings. Despite these cycles, addiction can worsen over time and can lead to a lot of harmful consequences.

Luckily, although it can be tough, alcoholism and drug addiction treatment is available and it can be defeated. It is essential to know that you are not alone and that it is never too late to ask for help.

What Causes Addiction?

Definition of Addiction | Turning Point of Tampa

There are numerous reasons why someone can get addicted to something.

Addictive substances and behaviors can make the brain feel good and affect how a person feels both physically and mentally. A person will typically use more of the addictive substance or engage more in these addictive behaviors to achieve this same effect.

As time goes on, the addictive behavior gets out of hand, and overcoming addiction just gets harder and harder.

For example, when someone gambles and starts winning, there’s a chance that he or she will develop an addiction and will want to recreate the same feeling.

Here are the main causes of why someone could get addicted to a behavior or substance:

The Brain

Some people have strong self-control and may never try a substance or behavior again. However, others might develop an addiction.

Brain imaging studies have shown that addiction can have complex interactions with brain circuits, specifically the frontal lobe.

The frontal lobe has the ability to delay a person’s ability to feel reward or gratitude. In the case of addiction, the frontal lobe can malfunction, and gratification can be immediate.

Addiction can also affect different brain circuits that play a role in addiction.

Other parts of the brain, such as the anterior cingulate cortex and the nucleus accumbens, can increase a person’s response to addictive behaviors and substances as it is associated with pleasurable sensations.

Mental disorders can also affect how a person deals with addiction.

Mental disorders such as schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder, can lead to coping strategies that result in addictions.

Addiction can also be affected by how long or how frequently a person has been addicted.

This is most common for substance use and other forms of substance use disorder. The more that an individual consumes a substance, the more that he or she needs to consume to receive the feeling of “reward.”

This is also very frequent among those suffering from drug addiction. Drug use that leads to drug addiction has been strongly correlated to drug abuse as the drug effects are more severe. Those that misuse alcohol or abuse alcohol can easily find themselves fighting addictive behavior. Those suffering from drug addiction need higher doses of the drug the longer that they consume it.

Early Exposure

Peer-reviewed studies also believe that exposure during the early stages of life can play a huge role when it comes to addiction. When a family member or multiple family members expose a child to things such as drugs and alcohol, it can later lead to substance addiction.

It was even found that genetics also play a huge role in addiction. In fact, a study by the American Society of Addiction Medicine has mentioned that if previous family members were exposed to addiction before, then the likelihood of the child’s developing brain being addicted increases by 50 percent.

However, it is important to note that just because drug addiction, substance addiction, or any form of addiction runs in the family doesn’t automatically mean that one will turn out that way.

There are other factors that can influence a person’s life, such as environmental factors and cultural factors. They play a role in how a person responds to substances or different behaviors.

One example is if a person is surrounded by drug users and the individual decided to resort to drug use due to peer pressure.

Traumatic experiences that affect coping abilities, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), can also play a role in addiction.

Addiction vs Misuse

Addiction and misuse are two different situations. These two terms are not the same and sometimes they are even interchanged.

Here are the differences between the two:


Misuse is when substances such as alcohol and drugs are used in high doses or in the wrong way.

This causes a person to experience significant health problems or negative consequences in their personal life. It may lead to legal problems or interferences with their relationship with families or friends or both.

A substance use disorder is recognized as a medical brain disorder that refers to the abuse of illicit drugs such as heroin, marijuana, cocaine, and other drugs. Each disorder is given a level based on the level of severity: mild, moderate, severe. Legal substances can also be abused, such as alcohol, nicotine, or any prescription medicine.


Not everyone who experiences problematic substance use instantly has an addiction.

Addiction is a little different as many people who suffer from substance abuse can quit or change their unhealthy behavior.

Addiction, on the other hand, is a neuropsychiatric disorder where it is hard for someone to stop something despite it being bad for them physically or mentally or both. This can cause chemical damage to the brain that results in negative health conditions and other risk factors.

One example is when a person resorts to drug use and experiences both the euphoric and harmful consequences of the drug’s effects.

It is important to note that this does not automatically qualify a person as an addict until he or she experiences a relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking despite physical harm and psychological harm.

Substance addiction isn’t the only form of addiction as there are also non-substance addictions. Here are some examples of non-substance addictions:

  • Gambling
  • Internet
  • Sex
  • Gadgets
  • Food

Types of Addiction

While it is obvious to a lot of people what substances are addictive, there is still some controversy about which ones are truly addictive. Because of this, medical professionals created a diagnostic tool called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Medical professionals use it to diagnose different types of mental health conditions. It was indicated that the most addictive substances were psychoactive substances including medication.

Addiction vs Substance Use Disorders

As mentioned earlier, addiction is used to describe someone who experiences the compulsive physiological need to take substances despite the negative consequences.

However, it is important to take note that addiction is not considered an official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Instead of using the term addiction, the DSM-5 uses substance use disorder. While other chronic diseases vary for each type, the DSM-5 describes these disorders as habit-forming substance disorders that lead to negative consequences.

Despite these conditions being informally referred to as addictions, a medical professional will still officially diagnose you with some form of substance use disorder.

They might even diagnose you with one of the two behavioral addiction disorders, which are recognized by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

Substance Use Disorders

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has characterized 10 substance use disorders based on use of the following substances:

  1. Alcohol
  2. Caffeine
  3. Cannabis
  4. Hallucinogens
  5. Inhalants
  6. Opioids
  7. Sedatives
  8. Hypnotics and Anxiolytics
  9. Stimulants
  10. Tobacco and other (or unknown) substances.

Behavioral Addictions

The following are the behavioral addictions found in the DSM-5:

  • Addiction to gambling
  • Internet gaming disorder

Substances or Behaviors That Can Trigger Addiction

There are numerous things that can trigger addiction.

There are also some habits or social behaviors that disguise as an addiction. However, a person suffering from addiction will act negatively or feel bad when they don’t get their feeling of “reward.”

One example is when someone is addicted to nicotine and they don’t use it for a certain amount of time. They can experience physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and irritability.

Besides drugs and alcohol, here are some of the most common substances or behaviors that can trigger addictions:

  • Caffeine
  • Gambling
  • Emotions as a form of coping strategy
  • Technology
  • Food
  • Work
  • Nicotine
  • Sex

Despite these addictions, the American Psychiatric Association does not recognize different addictions such as technology, sex, and work.

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

These are the primary signs and symptoms of addiction:

  • A feeling of having to use the substance regularly
  • Money issues
  • Changes in appetite
  • Abusing prescriptions to get more of certain substances
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the substance
  • Having intense urges for the substance to block out any other thoughts
  • Failing multiple attempts at stopping from taking the substance
  • Taking larger amounts of the substance than needed
  • Giving up or reducing activities because of drug or alcohol use
  • Not fulfilling work responsibilities
  • Cutting back on one’s social life because of the substance
  • Doing risky activities under the influence of the substance
  • Involvement in criminal activity

If you or someone you know is experiencing these signs and symptoms of addiction, then we recommend that you get them the help they need.

How Addictions Can Affect You

Alcohol, drugs, and other substance use addiction can cause so many problems that not only affect your physical and mental health but also your social life.

It is best to understand and look closely at the effects of these different addictions. This can help not only figure out the problem but also find ways for addiction treatment approaches.

There are no positives to addiction and it mostly just destroys one’s life. The following are the health and social consequences of addiction:

Health Consequences

The following are the health consequences of addiction:

  • Change in personality
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Feelings of sadness
  • Harder time concentrating
  • Violence
  • Stress
  • Impaired decision-making abilities
  • Impulsiveness
  • Loss of self-control
  • Aggressiveness

Social Consequences

The following are the social consequences of addiction:

  • Spend less time with close friends and family
  • Financial issues
  • Problems with law and order
  • Difficulty finding a job
  • Harder time studying or working

Withdrawal From Addiction

There can be negative effects on a person suffering from addiction when he or she stops taking the substance or stops engaging in the behavior. These negative effects are called withdrawal symptoms.

People suffering from substance use disorder have become physically dependent on their substances. This makes their recovery process a lot harder as the symptoms they feel are very unpleasant.

Discontinuation of these substances can provoke these withdrawal symptoms and in some cases, it can even be fatal.

Addiction Treatment Approaches

It is never too late to ask for help and if you or a person you know is suffering from addiction and abuse, then addiction treatment should be looked for as soon as possible.

Although there is no cure for addiction, there are multiple addiction treatment options available that will help you overcome your obstacle.

The following are different ways you can treat addiction.

Coping Strategies

Other than getting appropriate treatment, there are some skills you can learn to cope with addiction or to make your recovery process a lot faster

Here are the coping strategies you can learn:

  • Be aware of the signs and symptoms: It is important for one to recognize the signs of addiction. People can go for a very long time without recognizing that they have an addiction. Some things you can look out for are withdrawal symptoms. If you feel that you are experiencing the signs and symptoms we listed above then you’re on the right path.
  • Understand how addiction works: Always remember that help is available and you are never alone. However, this shouldn’t stop you from educating yourself about addiction. You can significantly impact harm reduction on yourself and those around you by learning how addiction works.
  • Develop coping skills: When coping with problems, alcohol and drug use can be some of the things that you resort to. It is difficult to recognize at first and some people don’t even recognize at all that it has come to the point of addiction. While life is full of stress and problems, developing new coping skills can help you deal with them in a healthier manner or, in other words, without relying on substance use or behaviors.
  • Get support: There are different support groups that can help you connect with people. You can look for people that have similar experiences to you and talking it out is a great way to cope. You can also get social support from friends, families, and other people that are close to you.

When To Contact a Doctor

Anyone that uses substances, even at social events, should consult with a doctor to ensure that it is not being abused and so that addiction can be prevented.

For a person already struggling with addiction, it may be hard for them to seek professional medical help. They might not be ready or they just don’t feel the need to despite them already experiencing the negative effects of their addiction.

In cases where a person might experience a substance overdose due to substance use and drug abuse, it will be hard for them to seek professional medical help on their own. It is important that you help them seek the professional medical help that they need in this urgent time.

After their recovery from the overdose, they might want to seek help to get their addiction treated, so make sure to help them with that as well.

When you or someone you know is ready to get their addiction treated, they can contact a medical professional or a treatment center to look for different treatment options available to them. Some of these treatment options include therapy, detox, rehab, and medication.

Drug Addiction Treatment

Numerous drug addiction treatment options have been found over the years. A lot of these have been very useful in treating addiction:

  • Detoxification, also known as “detox” is the withdrawal therapy that has been known to be very effective in drug rehab. It enables you to stop taking the addicting drug as quickly and safely as possible.
  • Inpatient or Residential Treatment allows a person 24 hour safety and is under direct supervision at a facility.
  • Outpatient Treatment approaches allow a person to attend and not reside in a facility. The intensity of involvement varies based on program. Daily attendance or one time a week and this is based on a well written treatment plan with the facility of choice.
  • In cases of an opioid overdose, Naloxone is given to the client as it temporarily reverses the effects of opioid drugs.
  • Behavior therapy is also one of the effective methods for addiction treatment as it helps the clients deal with their obstacles in healthy ways by letting a psychologist offer different coping mechanisms, ways to avoid the drug, etc.

The best part about these treatments is that they can be personalized depending on one’s health and condition. Whatever the patient needs to get better, the medical professional will support and provide.

Treatment can take a long time and what works for some people won’t work for everyone. It is important to look for what works and to dedicate enough time to the recovery process.

Helpful Organizations and Drug Abuse Hotlines

There are a lot of helpful organizations and hotlines out there that will help you with addiction. They are always available and all you need to do is give them a call.

Some of these organizations and hotlines include the following:

  • Al-Anon Family Groups (Al-Anon)
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
  • Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America (CADCA)
  • Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA)
  • Gamblers Anonymous (GA)
  • Marijuana Anonymous (MA)
  • Nar-Anon Family Groups (Nar-Anon)
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA)
  • National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA)
  • National Institute On Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA)

Don’t hesitate to contact and learn more about these organizations. They are always there to help you with the problems you are facing.

The Bottom Line

Addiction is a serious mental illness and it is never too late to ask for help. Understanding how addiction works and looking for treatment options are the things one can do toward recovery. 

Always remember that you are not alone and there are always people who want to help you. Turning Point of Tampa helps those wanting to recovery from alcohol and drug addiction, co-occurring disorders, and eating disorders. Please call today and we will help you or your loved one.

Turning Point of Tampa Addiction Treatment Tampa Florida

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