Addiction is a condition that results from becoming dependent on a particular chemical or activity. There are many different types of addictions, ranging from chemical dependency on drugs or alcohol to addictions to activities like sex or gambling.
When people become addicted to a chemical or activity, they reach a stage where they believe they cannot do without it. Therefore, they feel a strong compulsion to use it or do it, even if they know that it’s not in their best interest. Generally, this situation results from the chemical or activity creating a pleasurable sensation that the body or brain desires again. As an addiction progresses, the link to the chemical or activity becomes so strong that people will forsake their overall health and well-being to continue their addiction.
Causes of Addiction
Addictions are complicated, and there are a lot of factors that can lead to someone becoming an addict. The cause of the addiction will vary quite a bit, depending on what the addiction is as well as the person’s individual situation.
However, there does seem to be a strong genetic component to addictions: It’s true that some people just seem to have an addictive personality. Beyond genetic factors, though, your environment plays a major role in your chances of becoming an addict. If you’re surrounded by other addicts, then there’s a good chance that you might become one.
Addiction Characteristics and Treatment
The main things that distinguish an addiction from a pleasurable activity are the inability to stop the activity, even after many attempts. You'll feel a strong physical and mental craving for it, and your behavior will change when you need it.
The treatment for an addiction will vary depending on its type and the severity of the addiction, but many need therapy or other outside help to end the addiction. Both group and one-on-one therapy are often needed for the addict. In addition, it’s also very important that the individual take a role in self-management, with outside support, to get a handle on their addiction. It’s not easy, and relapse is common, but many addicts can overcome their illness and go on to lead fulfilling lives.
SOURCES: American Society of Addiction Medicine; U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy
Millions of nonsmokers still exposed to secondhand smoke.