Addiction

People sometimes jokingly use the term "addiction" in everyday conversation, referring to themselves as "chocolate addicts" or "workaholics." But addiction isn't something to be taken lightly. Addiction to alcohol, marijuana, prescription medications, gambling, and other substances or activities can cause serious health issues and problems with family members, friends, coworkers, work, money, and the law. Yet, despite these problems, a person continues to use the substance or engage in the activity.

People with an addiction tend to show the three Cs:

  • craving for the object of the addiction, which can be mild to intense
  • loss of control over use of the object of the addiction
  • continued engagement with the object of the addiction in spite of harmful consequences.

In its most basic definition, addiction is a physical dependence on a substance or activity. The dependence leads to unpleasant symptoms, called withdrawal symptoms, that appear when a person stops using the substance or doing the activity.

Nobody starts out wanting to develop an addiction. But some people do get attracted to certain substances or behaviors for specific reasons. Most of these objects of addiction offer people some psychological, social, or physical rewards. Those rewards are often compelling, so the substance or behavior remains appealing even if it also comes at a cost.

One key element in overcoming addiction involves recognizing the value it holds. Once you understand the value you derive from your addiction, you can seek alternate  and less destructive  methods for filling that need.

Addiction Articles

Is it safe for women to drink alcohol?

Women should avoid alcohol if they are pregnant or if they have a personal or family history of breast cancer, liver disease, or alcohol abuse. For other women, one drink a day is generally healthy. (Locked) More »

What new opioid laws mean for pain relief

More than two dozen states have enacted tough new laws regulating opioid prescriptions. The rules limit the amount of opioids that medical professionals can prescribe for temporary (acute) pain from surgery, injury, or illness. Some of the new opioid laws give doctors the ability to override and refill a prescription for acute pain, but only after the first prescription has been used up. Often, a person who wants opioids will have to go back to the doctor’s office to pick up the new prescription. (Locked) More »

The Science of Pain Management - Longwood Seminar

We all experience pain in our lives, but can the cure be worse than the condition? In this seminar, Harvard Medical School experts explore the science of pain, the realities of prescription drug dependence and new discoveries and treatments that may lead to better, safer pain management. Each spring, Harvard Medical School's Office of Communications and External Relations organizes a series of four free "mini-med school" classes for the general public in the heart of Boston's Longwood Medical Area. At the end of the seminar series, participants who attend three out of the four sessions receive a certificate of completion. Topics are selected for their appeal to a lay audience and have included the human genome, nutrition, sleep dynamics and health care access. Faculty from Harvard Medical School and its affiliate hospitals volunteer their time to present these lectures to the community. More »

Is my painkiller an opioid?

Oxycodone is an opioid. A combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen should be used with caution and for the shortest duration possible. Talk to your doctor about tapering off the oxycodone or other opioid if possible. (Locked) More »

The downside of taking pills to treat chronic pain

Not understanding the risks of using painkillers can be dangerous. Large doses of acetaminophen can damage the liver. Regular use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) has been linked to ulcers, stomach bleeding, kidney problems, high blood pressure, and increased risk of heart attack or stroke. Long-term use of prescription painkillers called opioids comes with the risk of dependence, addiction, overdose, death, constipation, falls, slowed reaction time, and slowed breathing. It’s important to weigh the risks and benefits of long-term use of painkillers by talking with a doctor. (Locked) More »

Keep tabs on your drinking

Over time, a single drink per day may slightly increase the risk of atrial fibrillation (afib). This risk may be related to an enlargement of the heart’s upper left chamber (atrium). And binge drinking—defined as consuming about four to five drinks over a two-hour period—can also trigger afib.  (Locked) More »

At what age is alcohol use unsafe?

When older adults drink alcohol, they may be increasing their risk of falls. Otherwise, drinking alcohol in the older years poses the same risks as it does in the younger years. (Locked) More »

Treatments for opioid medication addictions

Dr. Wynne Armand talks with Dr. Terry Schraeder about the increase in opiod addictions and shares prevention and treatment methods for those experiencing an addiction to prescription opioid medication. More »