Substance Abuse & Addiction - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Substance Abuse & Addiction

What is an Addiction?

The definition of Addiction is a dependence on a substance, such as alcohol, or a type of behavior, such as gambling. The dependence is so strong that it may seem as if the person is unable to break away from the dependence.

Description of Addiction:

At one time, the term "addiction" was used almost exclusively for substance addiction. That is, addicts were thought of as people who were totally dependent on drugs such as heroin, cocaine, nicotine, or alcohol. That form of addiction is now known as "substance addiction."

Today, we understand and recognize that people can become addicted to certain behaviors. Some individuals may develop a dependence on gambling, shopping, sexual activity, eating, or many other activities. Addictions of this kind are sometimes called "process addictions."

Addictions cause enormous personal harm to not only the addict, but to their families and friends as well. The cost goes beyond the actual dollar amount that individuals spend while in active addiction. People who become addicted to alcohol or drugs may develop any number of health problems. They may also experience personality changes and lose the ability to interact with other people socially. Addicts may have difficulty staying in school or holding a job. If they do hold a job, they may pose a certain risk to their co-workers, to their customers, and to any individuals with whom they interact. For example, a surgeon who is addicted to alcohol and drinks daily may pose a serious threat to the patient he is performing surgery on.

Symptoms of addiction: All forms of addictions have some common symptoms, including;
- Loss of control. Addicts are unable to manage their behavior or their use of a substance. They may decide to quit the behavior or using the substance one day and then fall back into the habit the next day.

- Tolerance. In most forms of addiction, a person needs more and more of the substance or behavior over time. Early in an addiction, a person may need only one "hit" of heroin a day. A few months later, he or she may need two, six, or a dozen "hits" to get the same response.

- Impairment. Addicts often continue to use a substance or demonstrate a behavior even when they know the undesirable effects it may have. For example, a gambling addict may continue to wager money even though he or she has lost everything in previous gambling experiences.

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