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What is Addiction?

Are you addicted to Quick and Dirty Tips?  To Alcohol?  To World of Warcraft?  If so, this article is for you!

By
Rob Lamberts, MD
5-minute read
Episode #27

It’s common knowledge that you can be addicted to the chemicals in cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs such as heroin, you also can be addicted to behaviors, such as gambling, food, spending money, and pornography.

Can Dependency Lead to Addiction?

There are some things that cause dependency that can also lead to addiction, including:

Alcohol – Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol range from mild agitation to a life threatening condition called delirium tremens.

Cigarettes – The withdrawal symptoms, known as “nicotine fits,” are uncomfortable, but the craving is more from addiction than dependency.

Prescription drugs –  Prescription drugs of the following major classes often lead to dependency and addiction:

  • Pain medications, such as oxycodone

  • Anxiety medications, such as Xanax

Compulsive spending and gambling do not cause dependency; they can, however, be extremely addictive. Coffee and nasal spray, on the other hand, cause dependency, but not addiction. That’s why you don’t meet up with a guy saying, “Hey buddy, want to buy some Dristan?”  I guess Starbucks is evidence that there may be some addictiveness to coffee.

Why do People Get Addicted?

Different people are susceptible to addiction to different degrees. The factors that make people prone to addiction are:

  • Heredity

  • History of significant anxiety or depression

  • Significant abuse or trauma in the past.

How Does Addiction Work?

Addiction typically follows a cycle:

  1. A person is anxious and depressed, wanting to escape their situation.

  2. They go to their addictive behavior, getting momentary relief from the bad in their life.

  3. The addiction causes feelings of guilt or shame, or it causes significant disruption in the person’s life.

  4. The consequences of the addictive behavior cause the person to become more anxious or depressed.

  5. The person is drawn back to the addictive behavior.

It’s very much like the “moth being drawn to the flame.”  So why doesn’t the addict stop what they are doing due to the consequences? Some people actually do. I have seen people quit smoking, drinking, and even doing hard drugs just by realizing certain hard facts. But most addicted people can’t pull out despite the consequences and persistent reminders of their bad behavior can actually drive them toward their addiction. These people need to get help.

Myths About Addiction

Before I move on to my tips on this subject, I want to dispel a few myths about addiction:

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Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.