Understanding Addiction: A Comprehensive Guide

Addiction is a complex mental illness that can be difficult to understand. It is characterized by an inability to control or stop engaging in a behavior or using a substance, even when it is causing psychological and physical harm. Addiction is determined multifactorially, with a substantial genetic influence, and is also influenced by environmental factors and the interaction between the two. It can cause significant health, social and economic problems, and is accepted as a mental illness in the diagnostic nomenclature. Treatment for addiction focuses on helping the individual to stop engaging in their addiction.

This may involve support from healthcare providers, family, friends, support groups, or an organized treatment program. Genetics also increases the likelihood of addiction by approximately 50 percent, according to the American Society for Addiction Medicine. Prevention efforts and approaches to treating addiction are generally as successful as those for other chronic diseases. The concept of addiction has had a substantial influence on politics, leading to the almost universal ban on drugs such as opiates, cocaine, cannabis and amphetamine. However, this has not been able to hinder the development of substance use problems.

Optimism is encouraged by the development of respectful ways of thinking about people with addictions, in particular by advocates of motivational interviewing. The American Psychiatric Association does not recognize addictions to technology, sex and work as addictions in its most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. However, one of the most encouraging developments in addiction treatment has been the growing recognition of the patient as a human being with human rights who deserves respectful treatment. If you or someone you know has an addiction, call 800-622-4357 for free confidential information from SAMHSA about treatment referrals. Help from your healthcare provider, family, friends, support groups, or an organized treatment program can help you overcome your drug addiction and stay drug-free.