The term addiction can be misused easily. Understanding the addiction definition, though, allows you to see if and when you need treatment. Addiction is a complex brain disease; it is not a choice. It cannot simply stop happening without treatment. Instead, it occurs when a person uses a substance so much, so it creates a harmful outcome.
Addiction Definition Explained
A simple addiction definition does not always provide the insight a person needs to understand what is happening and why. A person with an addiction has an intense need to use a specific substance, such as illicit or prescription drugs or alcohol. Their use of that drug is so essential to them that they push anything else in their life to the side to maintain the addiction. They also understand that continued use will cause additional problems and may be risky. Yet, they do not have the ability to simply stop using.
When you see the addiction definition, it is important to know that addiction is a real disease and needs treatment in the same manner as any other type of illness. That’s because the brain’s wiring is not different. The brain creates intense cravings for the drug because it has become dependent on the drug’s presence to function. Without it, the brain doesn’t function as it should.
Specifically, addiction impacts the areas of the brain related to decision making, judgment, learning, behavior control, and memory. Whether or not these changes are long-lasting depends on how soon a person detoxes from using the drug and the amount and type of use.
When Does Addiction Occur?
It’s hard to see a friend who can have a drink now and then without worrying about addiction. No level of alcohol or drug use is safe for anyone. However, some people develop a true alcohol use disorder while others do not. Why this happens isn’t fully understood. Yet, for others, it can be hard to tell when a person is just having a drink or is actually struggling with addiction.
Some common signs of addictive behavior include the following:
- The inability to stop using the drug for any length of time
- Changes to social behavior, such as withdrawing from friends
- Hiding drug use, often due to not wanting others to know they are using
- The need to use more of the same drug to get the desired results (indicates a dependence has occurred)
- Engaging in risky behavior, even though they understand the consequences of that behavior
- Problems at work, home, or school
- Lying or otherwise deceiving people especially if this is out of character
Many people with addiction also have a mental illness. This is called co-occurring disorders. This can worsen symptoms and make them not using even more difficult.
When to Seek Help for Addiction
The addiction definition clearly indicates the need to use. Those who want to stop often cannot do so on their own. Yet, there is help. Detox centers and both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs can help a person to break away from the addiction and reclaim their life. Doing this in a safe, controlled environment is critical to the long-term results and outcomes.