What makes a person an addict?

George Koob, director of the NIH National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Many people don't understand why or how other people become addicted to drugs. They may mistakenly think that those who use drugs lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop using drugs simply by choosing to do so. In reality, drug addiction is a complex illness, and quitting smoking generally requires more than good intentions or a strong will. Drugs change the brain in ways that make it difficult to stop smoking, even for those who want to.

Fortunately, researchers know more than ever how drugs affect the brain and have found treatments that can help people recover from drug addiction and lead productive lives. Those experiences don't automatically lead to addiction. So what makes a particular habit or substance an addiction? What drives some people to seek these experiences, even if they are costly or harmful to their health and relationships? The signs, symptoms, and causes of addiction may vary from person to person, but even so, addiction can have a detrimental effect on anyone's livelihood and is often difficult to control without professional treatments for addiction. Many experts reject the idea of addictive personalities, but some believe it explains why some people develop addictions.

Addiction treatment is highly personalized and often requires the support of the individual's community or family. It's no surprise then that people who are worried about developing a drug or alcohol addiction often try to figure out what the traits of an addictive personality might be. Although everyone's path to addiction is different, whether they try a drug or behavior, because it's what that person's parents or partners do, or simply out of curiosity, what's common with all substance and behavioral addictions is their amazing ability to increase levels of a substance An important chemical in the brain called dopamine, Boyle told Live Science.