Addiction is the inability to stop using a substance or engaging in a behavior, even if it causes psychological and physical harm. The term addiction does not refer only to addiction to substances such as heroin or cocaine. Some addictions also involve an inability to stop participating in activities such as gambling, eating, or work.

Addiction is a chronic condition that can also result from taking medication. For example, the misuse of opioids, particularly fentanyl, caused nearly 50,000 deaths in the United States in 2019 alone.

Addiction is “a chronic, treatable medical condition involving complex interactions between an individual’s brain circuitry, genetics, environment, and life experiences.” People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite the harmful consequences. Many, but not all, people start using a drug or engaging in an activity voluntarily. However, addiction can take over and reduce self-control.

Addiction and misuse

Drug addiction and drug abuse are two different things. Misuse refers to the excessive use of a substance in high doses or in inappropriate situations that can lead to health and social problems. However, not everyone who abuses a substance is addicted. Addiction is “the fact or condition of being dependent on a particular substance, thing or activity”. For example, someone who drinks a lot of alcohol at a party may experience both the euphoric effects and the harmful effects of the substance. However, it does not constitute addiction until the person has “a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite adverse consequences, and lasting brain changes.”

There are substance addictions and non-substance addictions. Here are some examples of non-substance related addictions:

the game
the food
A person with addiction will continue to abuse the substance or activity despite its harmful effects.


The main signs of addiction are:

relationship difficulties, which often result in attacks on people who identify with addiction
inability to stop using a substance, even if it is causing health problems or personal problems, such as work or relationship problems
a noticeable lack of energy in daily activities
profound changes in appearance, including weight loss and a noticeable abandonment of hygiene
the appearance of a defensive attitude when asked questions about the consumption of psychoactive substances.

Withdrawal from substance dependence

When an addict stops taking the substance or engaging in the behavior, they may experience certain symptoms. For people who have become physically dependent on a substance, abrupt cessation can cause many unpleasant symptoms and, in some cases, be fatal.

When to contact a doctor

Anyone who uses substances, even in a social setting, should talk to a doctor to make sure the use is safe and to watch for signs or symptoms of addiction. However, a person suffering from an addiction may not be ready or willing to seek professional medical help, regardless of the negative consequences of their use on their health and well-being.
If a person overdoses, those around them should seek emergency medical assistance immediately. A person who has recovered from an overdose may want to seek professional help to treat their addiction. When a person is ready and wants help to treat their addiction, they can contact a medical professional to discuss treatment options. These options include rehabilitation, therapy, detox and medication.


Medical advances and advancements in diagnosis have helped the medical community develop various ways to manage and resolve addiction.

Here are some of these methods:

drug treatment
behavioral therapy and counseling
medical devices to treat withdrawal
treating related psychological factors, such as depression
ongoing care to reduce the risk of relapse

Addiction treatment is highly individualized and often requires the support of the individual’s friends and family. Treatment can be long and complicated. Addiction is a chronic disease that has various psychological and physical effects. Each substance or behavior may require different management techniques.