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

Opioids after heart surgery: A cautionary tale

In one study, about 10% of people prescribed opioid pain relievers following heart surgery kept taking them for three to six months—a time point when no one should still be experiencing pain from the operation. More »

Another strategy to cope with life’s dark times

Evidence suggests that attending a religious service at least once per week is associated with a much lower risk of "death from despair" (suicide, drug overdose, or alcohol poisoning), compared with never attending religious services. More »

Is your habit getting out of control?

Times of stress or trauma can trigger new substance use disorders or lead to relapse in people who are recovering. During these times, the brain seeks to find relief for the most pressing short-term problems, which takes the focus off long-term health. People shouldn’t wait until the problem is entrenched to seek help. Reaching out early brings benefits. (Locked) More »

Are you drinking too much alcohol?

AUD is the umbrella term for problem drinking, whether from alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence. While both are marked by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use, they’re not the same. Alcohol abuse causes significant problems in one’s life at home or at work, but it doesn’t involve physical addiction. Alcohol dependence is different. It’s a physical addiction to alcohol that causes withdrawal symptoms when a person stops drinking. AUD is classified as mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the number of symptoms a person exhibits. (Locked) More »

E-cigarettes: Hazardous or helpful?

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) may expose people to fewer toxins than regular cigarettes. But their efficacy as a smoking cessation tool and long-term safety remain hazy. Unlike other nicotine replacement therapies such as patches, pills, and gums, e-cigarettes are not FDA-approved for smoking cessation. Still, some experts say e-cigarettes might help people quit if coupled with behavioral therapy and an established, agreed upon time for complete cessation. (Locked) More »

Do hangovers damage the brain?

Evidence suggests that alcohol hangovers impair concentration, memory, and psychomotor speed. It’s unclear, however, if hangovers cause lasting brain damage. (Locked) More »

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

 Image: © Darwin Brandis/Getty Images Overdoses of powerful painkillers called opioids kill more than 115 people per day in the United States. More than 42,000 people died from opioids in 2016, five times more than in 1999. The reason? Since several of these powerful painkillers became available in pill form several decades ago, doctors have been prescribing more than patients need. "It is estimated that a large part of leftover opioids are diverted to the street, either deliberately or through theft," says Dr. Edgar Ross, senior clinician at the Pain Management Center at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. The misuse of opioids is a risk many states are no longer willing to take. The rules limit the amounts that medical professionals can prescribe for temporary (acute) pain from surgery, injury, or illness. (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 »