The definition of addiction

Addiction: 10 Terms to Know

Addiction is something that affects millions of Americans every year, in one form or another. If you struggle with addiction, or know someone who does, here are important terms you should be familiar with.

  1. Substance addiction: There are different types of addiction. The most common type of addiction is an addiction to drugs, either legal or illegal. This can include alcohol, nicotine, prescription medications, cocaine, heroin, or others.

  2. Behavioral addiction: Another type of addiction is a behavioral addiction, which means you are addicted to a certain activity such as gambling, sex, shopping, etc. Though these types of addictions are not as physically dangerous as drug addictions, they can be just as harmful to your relationships and other responsibilities.

  3. Compulsion: When you have a behavioral addiction, it begins as something that is pleasurable to do on occasion. Over time, however, it slowly becomes a compulsion, meaning that you feel you have to do it regularly in order to achieve the same “high” as you did the first time. When you feel like you don’t have a choice, or you want to stop but feel like you can’t, this is when an addiction become really dangerous. 

  4. Craving: Similarly to compulsions, cravings are what drive a substance addiction. After you have been using a certain drug for a period of time, your body begins to become physically dependent on this drug, which means that you feel like you need to have it on a regular basis. These cravings are also what make it so difficult to stop a drug addiction without outside help.

  5. Neurons: Substance addictions can permanently affect the way your brain feels pleasure. This is because the drug causes physical changes to the neurons (nerve cells) in your brain. Neurons use chemicals called neurotransmitters to communicate with the rest of your body. Even long after you stop using the drug, you may experience problems with this part of your brain.

  6. Tolerance: After a little while, a user of a potentially addictive substance will not be able to receive the same pleasure from the original dosage and will have to increase the dose in order to get the same high. This means that your body is building up a tolerance to the drug, and as you increase the dosage, your body’s tolerance will increase as well until eventually you will get no pleasure from the substance at all.

  7. Withdrawal: Once your body is physically dependent on a drug, this means that you will start experience the symptoms of withdrawal any time you try to stop using. This is why someone who is addicted to a drug will continue to use it, even if they no longer receive any pleasure from the drug. The symptoms of withdrawal can be both physical and psychological and can include: nausea, vomiting, chills, sweats, muscle cramps, aches, sleeplessness, shifts in heart rate, fever, depression, anxiety, irritability, and mood swings.

  8. Detoxification: Because of how difficult it is to go through withdrawal, there are detox programs that are to help you stop taking the drug as quickly and safely as possible. While sometimes it is possible to undergo withdrawal therapy as an outpatient, it is very common to be admitted into a hospital or residential treatment center for this portion of the recovery.

  9. Treatment program: One option for overcoming your addiction is to attend a treatment program, which usually includes individual, group, or family therapy sessions. Treatment programs focus on understanding the nature of your addiction and preventing a future relapse. There are outpatient, inpatient, and residential options.

  10. Self-help groups: This is a very important aspect for most addiction recovery. This involves attending a group with people who have suffered or are suffering from the same addiction as you. The goal is to provide support to one another and to help motivate you to stick with your treatment plan and avoid relapse.