Addiction is a chronic, but treatable, disorder. People who are addicted cannot control their need for alcohol or other drugs, even in the face of negative health, social or legal consequences. This lack of control is the result of alcohol – or drug-induced changes in the brain. Those changes, in turn, cause behavior changes.
Drug addiction is a condition characterized by compulsive drug intake, craving and seeking, despite negative consequences associated with drug use. Although being addicted implies drug dependence, it is possible to be dependent on a drug without being addicted. People that take drugs to treat diseases and disorders, which interfere with their inability to function, may experience improvement of their condition.
Such persons are dependent, but are not addicted. One is addicted, rather than merely dependent, if one exhibits compulsive behavior towards the drug and has difficulty quitting it. To qualify as being dependent a person must: Take a drug regularly, Experience unpleased symptoms if discontinued, which makes stopping difficult. Substance abuse can occur with or without dependency, and with or without addiction. Substance abuse is any use of a substance, which causes more harm than good. The brains of addicted people “have been modified by the drug in such always that absence of the drug makes a signal to their brain that is equivalent to thesignal of when someone is starving.
Addiction grows more serious over time. Substance use disorders travel along a continuum. This progression can be measured by the amount, frequency and context of a person’s substance use. As their illness deepens, addicted, addicted people need more alcohol or other drugs; they may use more often, and use in situations they never imagined when they first began to drink or take drugs. The illness becomes harder to treat and the related health problems, such as organ disease, become worse. “This is not something that develops overnight for any individual,” says addiction expert Dr. Kathleen Brady. “Generally there’s a series of steps that individuals go through from experimentation and occasional use (to) the actual loss of control of use. And it really is that process that defines addiction.”
Symptoms of addiction include tolerance (development of resistance to the effects of alcohol or other drugs over time) and withdrawal, a painful or unpleasant physical response when the substance is withheld. Many people with this illness deny that they are addicted. They often emphasize that they enjoy drinking or taking other drugs. People recovering from addiction can experience a lack of control and return to their substance use at some point in the recovery process. This faltering, common among people with most chronic disorders, is called relapse. To ordinary people, relapse is one of the most perplexing aspects of addiction. Millions of Americans who want to stop using addictive substances suffer tremendously, and replaces can be quite discouraging.