What Is Addiction?

“Addiction is a disease of choice.” — Kevin McCauley

Addiction begins as a choice and evolves into a disease. People can become addicted to substances like alcohol or drugs that alter the chemical balance of the brain, or they can become addicted to behaviors like gambling. Addictions create a loss of control and feelings of guilt, despair, failure and depression.

How addiction starts

An addiction can develop quickly or over a period of years. It can be the result of trauma, a form of self-medicating for pain, or an occasional habit that becomes a daily fix. Where some people can stop using a substance by choice, others are unable to stop using no matter how much they want to or how much damage it’s doing to their lives. Some people also have a higher genetic disposition to addiction. 

How addiction evolves

Addiction can evolve as a coping mechanism. When faced with stress, people use or behave in excess to simply get by. They continue to use or engage in the behavior despite the severe negative consequences happening in their lives or to the ones they love. Addiction often comes from an increased tolerance, meaning you need more of the substance or behavior more frequently to feel the same effects as before. Eventually, you lose the ability to feel those effects, and instead keep using because the withdrawal symptoms are uncomfortable or even painful.

If you feel like you or a loved one might be suffering from a substance addiction, take our assessment test.

Are you or a loved one struggling with addiction?
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