Addiction is a growing issue in the United States, especially with substances such as alcohol and opioids. However, addiction does not stop at substance abuse. Gaming, gambling, and even shopping can become an addiction that can disrupt your life and responsibilities if not taken care of or done in moderation. If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction, there are many ways to find help and support.

What is Addiction?

The best way to understand addiction is to know what it is. Drug Abuse defines addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that includes compulsive seeking and use of abusive substances and behaviors that have harmful consequences. Since the drugs interact with the brain, it is considered a disease. The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) states that the abusive use of substances or behaviors that lead to impairment or distress must include at least two criteria over a 12-month period. These include, but are not limited to:

  • The substance is taken in large amounts over a long period of time.
  • There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful effort to cut down or control use.
  • A great deal of time is dedicated to obtaining the substance.
  • There is a craving or strong desire of use.
  • Continued use is causing failure to keep up with everyday responsibilities.
  • Important activities are given up due to substance use or destructive behavior.
  • Recurrent behavior or use of the substance is in situations that are physically hazardous.
  • Despite constant psychological or physical issues, use of substance or behavior continues.

Indiana University describes addiction as similar to an obsession. Addicts will seek out the focus of their addiction, even if it causes harm to holding up their responsibilities or social relationships. Addicts will have severe withdrawal symptoms if they do not have the object, substance, or partake in the activity that they are addicted to.

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Types of Addiction

When we hear the word “addiction,” we usually think of substance addiction and abuse. However, addiction can also apply to objects, behaviors, and activities. The American Addiction Centers lists several types of addiction including exercise, food, gambling, gaming, sex and love, and shopping.


The most common addiction is to drugs. The University of Oklahoma states that people who use drugs do not always become addicted to them. However, some people do. First-time drug users have a variety of reasons for trying them: make friends, feel good, excel at sports, or ease a problem like depression or anxiety.

Substance abuse is the most common form of addiction, and in some places has become an epidemic. For more information about the range of substance addiction types, you can visit Drug Rehab. Substances include cocaine, heroin, and opioids. Arizona State University also shows that prescription drugs abuse can lead to addiction. The elderly are especially susceptible to this form of addiction due to the number of medications that are taken in that age group.

You can visit California State University: Substance abuse and dependence for more information.


Another common addiction is to alcohol. The reasons for consuming alcohol are similar to using drugs. ASAM.org also states that alcohol addiction is a medical disorder that eventually deteriorates relationships and emotional, mental, and physical health. The difference between abuse and addiction is that the dependence on the substance feels as if it is needed to get through everyday life.


Addictions are not only associated with substances, but also activities. Gambling is an addiction that can also cause problems with an individual’s life and relationships. The University of Texas states that young adults are more likely to develop a gambling problem than adults. Gamblers can lose control of their behavior, use gambling as a coping mechanism, and face difficult consequences such impaired judgment, feelings of shame and low self-esteem, destroyed relationships, and financial difficulties.


Food addictions are also prevalent in the United States. This addiction, according to Food Addicts Anonymous, is the uncontrollable craving for excess food, which usually includes refined carbohydrates, sugar, and flour substances. With this addiction, physical health suffers the most and eventually gives way to mental health issues about body image and self-esteem. Addicts may also try fad or crash diets but always return to binge eating practices.


With technology today, internet use had led to addiction in certain groups, mainly children, young adults and adults. Addiction to the internet can lead to damaged relationships, and a decreasing need to take care of everyday responsibilities. Caron Treatment Centers say that those who feel lonely, misunderstood, or isolated will turn to the online world to cope.


Another technology focused addiction is gaming, which also primarily affects young adults. Youth are particularly susceptible to problems with healthy development and fitness due to overuse of gaming. The American Psychiatric Association states that internet gaming disorder has only just recently been recommended for more study.

For more information, go to NACADA: Game Addicted Students


WBUR radio discusses the addiction to exercise. While exercising is a healthy activity to engage in, having your life revolve around exercise can have physical and mental consequences. Issues that can arise with an exercise addiction are extreme weight loss, osteoporosis, and lack of a menstrual cycle.

Risky Behavior

Another addiction can include risky behaviors, such as having unprotected sex with strangers or intentionally driving while under the influence. These are called behavioral addictions. You can explore more about behavioral addiction at the Dana Foundation website.

Compulsive Shopping

For shopping to be considered an addiction, it is not the amount of use but the consequences that come from it. Overextended credit, overdue bills, or a house that lacks reasonable living space due to the number of items are all indications. To learn more, visit Shopaholics Anonymous.


While one of the “better dressed” addictions, an addiction to work can interfere with a person’s ability to engage in life fully. Skipping vacations, working overtime, and always feeling the need to stay busy may all be signs of this addiction. For more information on work addiction, go to the Academia.edu

To learn more about many types of addictions, go to Indiana.edu: Addictive Behaviors.

Addiction Risk Factors

While there are a number of risk factors for addiction in some people, it is important to remember it does not mean addiction will occur in those with these risk factors.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the following are considered risk factors for addiction to occur:

  • A family history of addiction, especially drug or alcohol addiction
  • Men are more likely to have trouble with addiction than women
  • Having another mental health disorder, such as depression, ADHA, and post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Peer pressure
  • Having difficult family situations or lack of parental involvement

While there are chemical factors that might contribute to addiction, The Prevention Coalition also lists some environmental factors that could also be seen as contributing to someone becoming addicted to a substance or behavior. These can include but are not limited to academic failure, long work hours, loss of control or the feeling of losing control, divorce or remarriage, low socioeconomic status, and a parent or sibling drug/alcohol use.

To learn more, go to the American Association of Retired People: Risk Factors.

Addiction Risks Based on Age


We may not think children can be addicted to something to the point that it causes harm to themselves, but according to the OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services, there are a few behaviors that children become addicted to that will need addressing.

With all the knowledge and services available on the internet, an addiction to using the internet at all times is very prevalent with children. It has been indicated that there is a correlation between internet addiction and adolescent depression. Risk factors for becoming addicted to the internet include using it more than 20 hours a week, or every day, and for online gaming.

Childhood use of cigarettes and alcohol has been seen leading to the use of illegal drugs. The younger the person begins smoking and drinking, the more likely they will develop a problem later in life.

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Statistics on Do Something shows that teens die from prescription drugs more than heroin and cocaine combined. In 2013, more high school seniors were using marijuana than cigarettes, and also viewed the use of marijuana as not harmful. However, the addictive ingredient in marijuana is five times stronger than it was twenty years ago. Those that continually learn about the risks of drugs and other substances from parents are 50% less likely to use them and develop an addiction.

Drug-Free talks about some of the factors that affect teens and their chance of developing an addiction. These include a family history of addiction, mental health or behavioral issues, trauma, impulse control problems, escape and self-medication, rebellion, and boredom.

To learn more, visit Youth.Gov: Risk and protective factors.

Young Adults

While college and entering the workforce are new and exciting things to look forward to, young adults also have other risk factors to contend with. SAMHSA states that alcohol abuse is a common factor that will lead to addiction, due to the “party culture” that most young adults imagine when they go to college. Other factors that can lead to alcohol and other behavioral addictions can include where the student lives, social gatherings where alcohol is the main focus, unstructured free time, and using it as a coping strategy.

For more information, visit:


The risk for addiction does not always start in childhood or adolescents. Adults are just as susceptible as any other age group for developing an addiction. Also, the types of addiction are the same for adults. Recent addictions are internet and gaming for adults.

The Mayo Clinic lists prevailing risk factors for adults. Family history plays a part in addiction, as well as economic status. Also, major life transitions or events can put adults at risk to develop an addiction as a means to cope.

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The elderly are also one of the most likely age groups to develop an addiction, especially to prescription drugs. Family Doctor states that older adults make up for 33% of the population taking prescription medicines. They are also more likely to take two or more medications at one time. They commonly take two highly addictive drugs: opioids and benzodiazepines.

A report at the University of New England states that risk factors such as an increased sensitivity to stress, injuries, and medication side effects as well as higher instances of chronic illnesses, and impairment of the body and mind can lead an older adult to addiction for coping. The problem with diagnosing addiction in older adults is that the signs of addiction can look like just the normal process of aging.

For more information, go to St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea Health System: Common risk factors for older adults.

Warning Signs

If you or someone you know may be developing an addiction, there are warning signs to look for. Help Guide gives us the common warning signs of addiction:

  • You have built up a tolerance and need more to feel its effects
  • Taking drugs to relieve withdrawal symptoms
  • Losing control over the use of a substance or the behavior
  • Revolving your life around the substance, object, or behavior
  • Abandoning activities for the addiction, and continuing despite knowing it is damaging

Other warning signs listed by National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence include hiding the addiction from friends and family, changes in appearance, and involvement in riskier behavior when on the substance.

To learn more about warning signs, go to:

Emerson College: Alcohol and other drug warning signs

Rehab International: Addiction center


The best way to treat addiction is knowing how to prevent it. According to Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, addiction is a preventable chronic disease. Research on brain chemistry, scientific findings of risk and protective factors for early substance abuse, and data concerning youth attitudes and behaviors towards substance use all help to develop effective preventative measures.

There are many forms of prevention. It is best to find the way that is right for you and your loved ones. For children, teens, and young adults, parents are the best preventative source they have. Parents are absolutely essential in educating them on how to live a drug-free, healthy life. You can also visit a local addiction center that works with preventative care for addiction or looks up local events conducted by organizations such as SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) and Campus Drug Prevention.

For more about prevention, go to:

Office of National Drug Control Policy: Preventing drug abuse

The National Council for Behavioral Health: Substance use, misuse, and addiction prevention

Narconon: Drug prevention programs

Getting Help

The most difficult part of the journey to healing is admitting or confronting a loved one to get help. There are a variety of ways to get help for addiction, such as individual or group counseling, inpatient, and residential treatment, partial hospital stays, case or care management, medication, 12-step programs, and peer supports, as listed by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The US Department of Health and Human Services also has a list of resources for specific addictions that you can contact and begin to find the help you need. If you are looking for a rehabilitation center, please visit Drug Rehab Centers for assistance on finding your local branch.

To learn more about what you can do, go to Recovery: Addiction assistance.

Understanding Addiction – Reviewing Causes, Impact and Prevention