A drug or alcohol addiction can come about abruptly and is defined by a physical and psychological dependence on a substance. Many substances can cause an addiction, including alcohol, prescription medications and illicit drugs.

What Is Addiction?

An addiction is a compulsive behavior that has no regards to the consequences of the persons actions. There are many substances that can be addictive and have different effects on the individual user. Addictions can be both physical and psychological.


When looking at addiction and drug rehabilitation, most people have a “Hollywood” picture of what the substance abuser goes through-chills, sweats, hallucinations, seizures, etc. However, not all substances create these effects when a person is trying to get clean and sober. The psychological effects of withdrawal are a lot more difficult to overcome than the physical effects.

Recognizing and Understanding Addiction

Addiction is a disorder that does not discriminate based on gender, race, income, occupation, family, or culture. Anyone can develop an addiction. If any of the following apply, you may have a problem with drugs and/or alcohol:

  • trouble controlling how much of a substance is taken.
  • trouble controlling how often a substance is taken.
  • trouble controlling how long a substance is taken (other than prescribed).

An addict’s need for a substance is uncontrollable. The repeated use of drugs and alcohol changes the brain’s chemistry so that the addict continues to crave the drug or alcohol despite the harm their actions will cause. Having a strong will and a desire to quit are not enough for the person to be able to overcome their addiction. An understanding of how the addiction develops helps the individual be able to beat their addiction.

Diagnosing an Addiction

An addiction is diagnosed like any other illness. The patient must meet specific and scientific criteria as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The DSM is published by the American Psychiatric Association. The criteria that has been set forth in the DSM is accepted and used by professionals to determine the presence and severity of the substance use disorder.

The criteria includes:

Lack of control

The substance is used in larger amounts or over a longer time than the person originally intended.

Desire to limit use

The individual wants to cut back on use but is unable to do so.

Time spent

A large amount of time is spent trying to obtaining a substance.


The substance user experiences a strong desire or urge to use their drug of choice.

Lack of responsibility

Substance use takes priority over everything else in the individual’s life – work, school or home obligations.

Problems with relationships

Interpersonal relationships are consistently strained from drug use.

Loss of interest

User stops participating in social or recreational activities in order to be able to use the drug.

Dangerous use

The individual continues to use drugs or alcohol despite dangerous circumstances.

Worsening situations

The individual continues to use despite increased physical or psychological problems.

The DSM places substance use disorders on a spectrum. The individual being diagnosed is asked about the criteria listed above. If 2-3 of the above criteria apply to someone within a given 12-year period, the individual is considered to have a mild substance use disorder. The presence of 4-5 of the criteria suggests a moderate disorder. Six or more indicates a severe problem. If these apply to you or someone you care about, get in touch with us now for help.

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Addiction Statistics

Every day, millions of Americans struggle with some form of addiction. If you are struggling, you are not alone. There are many treatment options that are available to help you overcome your addiction.


Million Americans

Over 20 million Americans over the age of 12 have a substance addiction (excluding tobacco).


people per day

100 people die every day from an overdose. This rate has tripled in the past 20 years.


million visits

Over five million emergency room visits in 2011 were related to drugs or alcohol.

Find more addiction statistics here.

Substances that Cause Addiction

There are many substances that can be misused and lead to an addiction. Among the most common substances are alcohol, prescription drugs, sleeping pills, and illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Numerous substances can lead to addiction. Some of the most common include alcohol, prescription painkillers, sleeping pills and illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Finding out more about the various substances, drugs, prescription drugs and painkillers that can cause addiction after continued use or abuse will be beneficial for you on your road to recovery.

Treatment for Addiction

Because each person’s addiction is different, they should have a recovery program developed specifically for them. Get in touch with someone who can help you understand your treatment options now.