Addiction Definition, Drug Addiction, Alcohol Addiction, Becoming Addicted & Treatment Options

Becoming a drug addict can occur for a variety of reasons. Addiction is a complex brain disease that is influenced by a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors.

By We Level Up | Editor Yamilla Francese | Clinically Reviewed By Lauren Barry, LMFT, MCAP, QS, Director of Quality Assurance | Editorial Policy | Research Policy | Last Updated: March 30, 2023

Addiction Definition

Addiction refers to a complex brain disease that causes an addict to compulsively engage in a behavior or substance use, despite the negative consequences that it may cause. The behavior or substance can be anything from drugs, alcohol, gambling, food, sex, or shopping.

Substance abuse is characterized by a dependence on a drug or behavior and a loss of control over the use of that substance or behavior. It can lead to negative consequences in many areas of a person’s life, including physical health, mental health, social relationships, and work or school performance.

Addicts suffer from a chronic condition that can occur due to genetic, environmental, or psychological factors. It often requires long-term treatment and ongoing support to manage and overcome.

Addiction treatment typically involves a combination of therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, group therapy, and medication-assisted treatment when appropriate. For anyone addicted is critical to seek help from a qualified healthcare provider if you or a loved one is an addict.

What is Drug Addiction?

Drug addiction is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive or uncontrollable drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences and changes in the brain, which can be long-lasting. These changes in the brain can lead to unhealthy behaviors seen in addicts that abuse drugs. Drug addiction is also a relapsing disease. Relapse is the return to drug use after an attempt to stop.

Becoming Addicted to Drugs

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Becoming a drug addict can occur for a variety of reasons. Addicts suffer from a complex brain disease influenced by genetic, environmental, and psychological factors.

The path to drug addiction begins with the voluntary act of taking drugs. But over time, a person’s ability to choose not to do so becomes compromised. Seeking and taking the drug becomes compulsive. This is primarily due to the effects of long-term drug exposure on brain function. Drug dependence affects parts of the brain involved in reward and motivation, learning and memory, and behavioral control. Thus, addiction is a disease that affects both the brain and behavior.

Treatment for alcohol addiction may involve detoxification, counseling, and medication-assisted therapy. Support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, may also be helpful. Long-term recovery from alcohol addiction is possible with proper treatment and support.

What is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a chronic condition characterized by compulsive and uncontrollable use of alcohol despite the negative consequences on a person’s health, relationships, and overall life. A person with alcohol addiction may experience a strong desire to drink, have difficulty controlling how much alcohol they consume, and experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking.

Alcohol addiction can develop due to various factors, including genetic, environmental, and personal factors such as stress, anxiety, and depression. Heavy, long-term alcohol use can change the brain’s chemistry, leading to excessive and uncontrolled drinking.

Alcohol Addicts Symptoms may include:

  • Drinking more than intended or drinking for longer periods than originally intended
  • Trying to quit drinking but not being able to do so
  • Spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from its effects
  • Continuing to drink despite the negative consequences, such as relationship problems or loss of job
  • Developing a high tolerance and needing to consume more and more alcohol to achieve the desired effects
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, sweating, and irritability when you try to stop drinking

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  1. How does a person become a drug addict?

    Becoming a drug addict can occur for a variety of reasons. Addicts suffer from a complex brain disease influenced by genetic, environmental, and psychological factors.

  2. What factors increase the risk of becoming addicted to drugs?

    Becoming addicted to drugs occurs due to the prolonged use of substances that alter brain chemistry and disrupt normal functioning. Addictive substance abuse disorders are chronic and complex. Genetic, environmental, and psychological factors may influence them.

  3. Is marijuana addictive?

    Marijuana can be addictive. While not everyone who uses marijuana becomes addicted, it’s estimated that around 9 percent of people who use marijuana will develop a dependence on it. Marijuana use affects the brain’s reward system, and chronic use can lead to changes in the brain that can cause Marijuana to become addictive to some.

  4. Is gabapentin addictive?

    While gabapentin is not classified as a controlled substance by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), there is some evidence that it can be addictive in some people. People at a higher risk include those with a history of substance abuse, especially opioids, or those with mental health conditions.

Drug Addict Dangers

Drug addicts abuse drugs in harmful amounts and methods. Drug addicted individuals suffer from a substance-abuse disorder. Different definitions of drug abuse are used in public health, medical, and criminal justice contexts. In some cases, illegal or anti-social behavior occurs when the person is addicted to drugs. Long-term personality changes in individuals may also occur in drug addicted individuals.

In addition to possible physical, social, and psychological harm, some drugs may also lead to criminal penalties, although these vary widely depending on the local jurisdiction. Fortunately, there are many drug addiction treatment options when you enter a drug addiction treatment center.

Drug abuse can be defined as a pattern of harmful use of any substance for mood-altering purposes. “Substances” can include alcohol and other drugs (illegal or not) and some substances that are not drugs at all. “Abuse” can result because you are using a substance in a way that is not intended or recommended or because you are using more than prescribed. 

Drug use disorders affect people from all walks of life and all age groups. These illnesses are common, recurrent, and often severe but treatable, and many recover. Mental disorders involve changes in thinking, mood, and behavior and are common to drug addicted individuals. Drug addiction and underlying mental health disorders can affect how we relate to others and make choices[1].

Becoming Addicted to Drugs

Becoming addicted to drugs is a serious issue that can harm physical, mental, and emotional health. Substance abuse disorders are chronic diseases that can lead to severe consequences such as overdose, health issues, and social and economic problems. If you or someone you know is struggling with drug and alcohol use disorder, seeking help and support from healthcare professionals, support groups, and loved ones is essential. Resources include counseling, medication-assisted treatment, addiction treatment facilities, and support groups like Narcotics Anonymous. Remember that addictive illnesses are not a choice; seeking help and support to overcome them is essential.

Addicted Drugs Dangers

Many drugs can be addictive, including both illicit and prescription drugs. Some commonly abused drugs that can lead to addictive disorders include:

  1. Opioids: prescription painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone; illicit drugs such as heroin and fentanyl.
  2. Stimulants: prescription drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin; illicit drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine.
  3. Depressants: prescription drugs such as benzodiazepines and barbiturates.
  4. Hallucinogens: illicit drugs such as LSD and psilocybin mushrooms.
  5. Marijuana: while not traditionally considered an addictive drug, it can lead to dependence and dependence in some individuals.
  6. Inhalants: common household products such as

Behavioral Counselling at Drug Abuse Treatment Centers

Behavioral counseling focuses on human behavior and destroys unwanted or maladaptive performance. Typically this type of treatment is done for those with behavioral problems or mental health situations that involve unwanted behavior. Examples include addictive drug abuse, anxiety, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

Drug Addiction Counseling Chart

 Therapy engages people in drug abuse treatment.
Addiction treatment therapy engages people with drug and alcohol problems. When addicted behavioral changes in the brain necessitate mental health therapy to teach coping skills, educate, and address the triggers and causes leading to becoming addicted in the first place.
Ryan Zofay forming a circle and hugging friends.

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Addiction Treatment Centers Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral approaches help engage people in drug abuse treatment, provide incentives to remain abstinent, modify their attitudes and behaviors related to drug abuse, and increase their life skills to handle stressful circumstances and environmental cues that may trigger intense cravings for drugs and prompt another cycle of compulsive abuse. Below are several behavioral therapies that have shown effectiveness in addressing substance abuse (effectiveness with particular drugs of abuse is denoted in parentheses)[2].

Twelve-step facilitation therapy is an active engagement strategy designed to increase the likelihood of a substance abuser becoming affiliated with and actively involved in 12-step self-help groups, promoting abstinence. Three key ideas predominate: 

  • Acceptance includes the realization that drug and alcohol dependence is a chronic, progressive disease over which one has no control, that life has become unmanageable because of drugs, that willpower alone is insufficient to overcome the problem, and that abstinence is the only alternative.
  • Surrender involves giving oneself to a higher power, accepting the fellowship and support structure of other recovering addicted individuals, and following the recovery activities laid out by the 12-step program.
  • Active involvement in 12-step meetings and related activities. While the efficacy of 12-step programs (and 12-step facilitation) in treating alcohol dependence has been established, the research on its usefulness for other forms of substance abuse is more preliminary. Still, the treatment appears promising for helping drug abusers sustain recovery.

Family Behavior Therapy (FBT), which has demonstrated positive results in adults and adolescents, aims to address substance use problems and other co-occurring problems, such as conduct disorders, child mistreatment, depression, family conflict, and unemployment. FBT combines behavioral contracting with contingency management. Therapists seek to engage families in applying the behavioral strategies taught in sessions and acquiring new skills to improve the home environment.

Patients are encouraged to develop behavioral goals for preventing substance use and HIV infection anchored to a contingency management system. Substance-abusing parents are prompted to set goals related to effective parenting behaviors. The behavioral plans are reviewed during each session, with rewards provided by significant others when goals are accomplished. Patients participate in treatment planning, choosing specific interventions from a menu of evidence-based treatment options. FBT was more effective than supportive counseling in comparing adolescents with and without conduct disorder [3].

Principles of Top Addiction Treatment Centers

Addiction treatment centers approaches and individual programs continue to evolve and diversify, and many programs today do not fit neatly into traditional drug and alcohol treatment classifications. Most addiction treatment centers, however, start with detoxification and medically managed withdrawal, often considered the first stage of treatment. Detoxification, the process by which the body clears itself of drugs, is designed to handle the acute and potentially dangerous physiological effects of stopping drug use.

Behavioral therapies are the most commonly used forms of drug abuse treatment.
Behavioral therapies are the most commonly used drug abuse treatment in addiction treatment centers.

As stated previously, detoxification alone does not address the psychological, social, and behavioral problems associated with dependence and therefore does not typically produce lasting behavioral changes necessary for recovery.

A formal addiction treatment center assessment and referral should thus follow detoxification to begin inpatient drug and alcohol rehabilitation treatment. Because it is often accompanied by unpleasant and potentially fatal side effects from withdrawal, detoxification is usually managed with medications administered by a physician in an inpatient or outpatient setting.

Therefore, it is referred to as “medically managed withdrawal.” Drugs are available to assist in withdrawing from opioids, benzodiazepines, alcohol, nicotine, barbiturates, and other sedatives.

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Types of Drug Addiction Treatment Programs

Most drug addiction treatment centers start with detoxification. Medically managed withdrawal is often considered the first stage of addiction treatment. Detoxification, the process by which the body clears itself of drugs, is designed to handle the acute and potentially dangerous physiological effects of stopping drug use. However, as stated previously, detoxification alone does not address the psychological, social, and behavioral problems associated with dependence and therefore does not typically produce lasting behavioral changes necessary for recovery. A formal behavioral addiction assessment and referral should thus follow detoxification before entering a drug and alcohol treatment center.

How to Find Individualized Addiction Counseling Near me?

Begin by finding licensed and accredited addiction center teams near me if you seek addiction counseling. Individualized addiction counseling not only focuses on reducing or stopping illicit drug or alcohol use; it also addresses related areas of impaired functioning—such as employment status, illegal activity, and family/social relations—as well as the content and structure of the patient’s recovery program.

Individualized addiction counseling emphasizes short-term behavioral goals and helps the patient develop coping strategies and tools to abstain from drug use and maintain abstinence. The addiction counselor encourages 12-step participation (at least once or twice weekly) and makes referrals for needed supplemental medical, psychiatric, employment, and other services.

There are several ways to find individualized addiction counseling near me:

  1. Search online for addiction counselors or therapists in your area. You can use search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo to search for addiction counselors in your city or state.
  2. Reach out to a local addiction treatment facility or clinic. They may have counselors or therapists on staff who can provide one-on-one counseling.
  3. Consult with a primary care physician or mental health professional. They can refer you to a qualified addiction counselor.
  4. Contact your health insurance company to find out if they cover addiction counseling and for a list of in-network providers.
  5. Seek recommendations from friends or family members who have gone through addiction treatment.

Finding the right addiction counselor at a licensed drug and alcohol treatment center is crucial to overcoming substance abuse. Ensure you choose a top addiction counselor team with experience and expertise in treating substance abuse and co-occurring mental health conditions. Your addiction counseling team should make you feel comfortable and supported.

Addiction Counseling Groups

Many therapeutic settings use group therapy to capitalize on the social reinforcement offered by peer discussion and to help promote drug-free lifestyles. Research has shown that positive outcomes are achieved when group therapy is either provided in conjunction with individualized drug counseling or formatted to reflect the principles of cognitive-behavioral treatment or contingency management. Currently, researchers are testing conditions in which group therapy can be standardized and made more community-friendly.

Long-Term Addiction Residential Treatment

Long-term residential treatment centers provide care 24 hours daily, generally in non-hospital settings. The best-known residential treatment model is the therapeutic community (TC), with planned lengths of stay between 6 and 12 months. TC focuses on the “resocialization” of the individual and uses the program’s entire community—including other residents, staff, and the social context—as active treatment components.

Addictive disorders are viewed in the context of an individual’s social and psychological deficits, and treatment focuses on developing personal accountability and responsibility and socially productive lives. Treatment is highly structured and confrontational. Activities are designed to help residents examine damaging beliefs, self-concepts, and destructive behavior patterns and adopt new, more harmonious, and constructive ways to interact with others. Many drug addiction treatment centers offer comprehensive employment training and onsite support services. 

Short-Term Residential Treatment

Short-term residential programs provide intensive but relatively brief treatment based on a modified 12-step approach. These programs were initially designed to treat alcohol problems, but during the cocaine epidemic of the mid-1980s, many began to treat other types of substance use disorders. The original residential treatment model consisted of a 3- to 6-week hospital-based inpatient treatment phase followed by extended outpatient therapy and participation in a self-help group, such as AA. Following stays in residential treatment programs, individuals must remain engaged in outpatient and aftercare programs. These programs help to reduce the risk of relapse once a patient leaves the residential setting.

Outpatient Treatment Programs

Outpatient treatment varies in the types and intensity of services offered. Such treatment costs less than residential or inpatient treatment and often is more suitable for people with jobs or extensive social support. It should be noted, however, that low-intensity programs may offer little more than drug education. Other outpatient models, such as intensive day treatment, can be comparable to residential programs in services and effectiveness, depending on the individual patient’s characteristics and needs. In many outpatient programs, group counseling can be a significant component. Some outpatient programs are also designed to treat patients with medical or other mental health problems in addition to their drug disorders.

People with substance use and addictive behavioral disorders may be aware of their problem but not stop even if they want and try to. Their addictive drugs may cause physical, psychological, and interpersonal problems, such as with family members and friends or at work. Alcohol and drug use is one of the leading causes of preventable illnesses and premature death nationwide.

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Symptoms of substance use disorder are grouped into four categories:

  • Impaired control: a craving or strong urge to use the substance; desire or failed attempts to cut down or control substance use
  • Social problems: substance use causes failure to complete major tasks at work, school, or home; social, work, or leisure activities are given up or cut back because of substance use
  • Risky use: substance is used in dangerous settings; continued use despite known problems
  • Drug effects: tolerance (need for more significant amounts to get the same product); withdrawal symptoms (different for each substance)

The We Level Up drug abuse treatment center network provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. We work as an integrated team providing information about behavioral counseling in drug abuse treatment centers and other aspects of treatment. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our counselors know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.

The We Level Up drug abuse treatment center organization can exclusively help with inpatient therapy programs. Depending on the extent of secondary behavioral disorders such as substance abuse, we can first help assess your condition and guide you to suitable treatment options. We do not provide outpatient and PHP services at this time. Call to learn more.

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[1] SAMHSA –

[2] NIDA –

[3] NIDA –

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