What’s the definition of addiction?
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. Understanding how a substance abuse problem develops helps to shed light on why they are so hard to beat. Learn about what addiction is, the signs to look out for and related topics below.
Someone experiencing an addiction will:
- be unable stay away from the substance or stop the addictive behavior
- display a lack of self-control
- have an increased desire for the substance or behavior
- dismiss how their behavior may be causing problems
- lack an emotional response
Over time, addictions can seriously interfere with your daily life. People experiencing addiction are also prone to cycles of relapse and remission. This means they may cycle between intense and mild use. Despite these cycles, addictions will typically worsen over time. They can lead to permanent health complications and serious consequences like bankruptcy.
What are the types?
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 19.7 million American adults (aged 12 and older) battled a substance use disorder in 2017.
Nevada Addiction Treatment Statistics
In 2009, there were 9,909 people who were admitted to drug and alcohol rehabs in Nevada. Approximately 9% of Nevada residents reported past-month use of illicit drugs; the national average was 8%. Stimulants, including methamphetamine, are the most commonly cited drugs among primary drug treatment admissions in Nevada.
In 2007-2008, Nevada was one of the top ten states for rates in several drug-use categories, including: past-month illicit drug use among persons age 12 and older; past-year non-medical use of pain relievers among persons age 12 and older; and past-year non-medical use of pain relievers among young adults age 18-25. Dependence on alcohol or drugs over time has been variable across survey years but the figures have generally remained at or slightly above rates for the country as a whole.
The most well-known and serious addiction is to drugs and alcohol. Nearly 1 in 10 Americans have an addiction to both. Of the people with a drug addiction, more than two-thirds also abuse alcohol.
Methamphetamine is identified as the biggest threat to Nevada. During November 2010, the Clark County Gang Task force seized 17 pounds of methamphetamine that was to be distributed in Clark County. The Northern Nevada Interdiction Task Force made a 19-pound methamphetamine interdiction on the highway going into Reno, Nevada.
- The most common drug addictions are:
- nicotine, found in tobacco
- THC, found in marijuana
- opioid (narcotics), or pain relievers
What Is Addiction?
Addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease defined by a physical and psychological dependence on drugs, alcohol or a behavior. When an addictive disorder has formed, a person will pursue their toxic habits despite putting themselves or others in harm’s way.
An addiction heavily impacts the way a person thinks, feels and acts. Many individuals with addictive disorders are aware of their problem, but have difficulty stopping on their own.
While it can be tempting to try a drug or addictive activity for the first time, it’s all too easy for things to go south – especially in the case of drug and alcohol abuse. When a person consumes a substance repeatedly over time, they begin building a tolerance. A tolerance occurs when you need to use larger amounts of drugs or alcohol to achieve the same effects as when you started.
Prolonged substance abuse can result in a dangerous cycle of addiction — where a person needs to continue using drugs or alcohol in order to avoid the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal. By the time a person realizes they have a problem, drugs or alcohol have already seized control, causing them to prioritize its use over everything else that was once important in their lives.
No one ever plans to become addicted.
There are countless reasons why someone would try a substance or behavior. Some are driven by curiosity and peer pressure, while others are looking for a way to relieve stress. Children who grow up in environments where drugs and alcohol are present have a greater risk of developing a substance abuse disorder down the road. Other factors that might steer a person toward harmful substance use behavior include:
Research estimates that genetics account for 40 to 60 percent of a person’s likelihood of developing a substance use problem.
Mental Health Disorders
Teens and adults with mental disorders are more likely to develop substance abuse patterns than the general population.
Addiction and the Brain
Excessive substance abuse affects many parts of the body, but the organ most impacted is the brain. When a person consumes a substance such as drugs or alcohol, their brain produces large amounts of dopamine, which triggers the brain’s reward system. After repeated drug use, the brain is unable to produce normal amounts of dopamine on its own. This means that a person will struggle to find enjoyment in pleasurable activities – like spending time with friends or family – when they are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If you or a loved one is struggling with a drug dependency, it’s vital to seek treatment as soon as possible. All too often people try to get better on their own, but this can be difficult and in some cases dangerous.
Recognizing and Understanding Addiction
Identifying a substance abuse problem can be a complicated process. While some signs of addictive behaviors are obvious, others are more difficult to recognize. Many people who realize they have a problem will try to hide it from family and friends, making it harder to tell whether someone is struggling.
Television, media and film often depict people with substance abuse issues as criminals, or individuals with moral shortcomings. The truth is, there’s no single face of addiction. Anyone can develop patterns of abuse or risky behaviors, no matter their age, culture or financial status.
The Difference Between Addiction and Dependence
The terms “addiction” and “dependence” are often confused or used interchangeably. While there is some overlap, it’s important to understand the major differences between the two.
A dependence is present when someone develops a physical tolerance to a substance. They may experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using the drug altogether. Usually, a dependency is resolved by slowly tapering off the use of a particular substance.
On the other hand, an addiction occurs when extensive drug or alcohol use has caused a person’s brain chemistry to change. Addictions manifest themselves as uncontrollable cravings to use drugs, despite doing harm to oneself or others. The only way to overcome an addiction is through treatment.