Generally, addictions refer to any type of behavior in which one does not have control over his/her actions, way of speaking, or manner of making use of various objects. Addictions are mental health disorders covering a wide range of dependencies including substance abuse (drugs, alcohol, nicotine), which in turn leads to substance dependence. They are not restricted only to physical objects/substances, but to behavioral dependencies as well, such as: gambling, technology, or shopping addiction (and the list can very well carry on with countless other examples). To sum up, addictions are chronic behaviors that people engage in, regardless of their negative consequences.


Addictions are mental disorders that occur mainly due to:

Environmental factors:

Family beliefs and attitudes may influence addictive behaviors

Peer pressure



Genetics may play an important part in transmitting faulty genetic traits that may delay or speed up the disorder’s progression


Physical addiction in particular seems to effectively change the way in which the brain responds to pleasure, by causing physical changes in the nervous system’s cells, particularly in terms of modifying neurotransmitters’ behavior. This behavior mainly functions on the premise of creating a sense of dependency and expectancy in terms of a continuous attainment of pleasure from an outside source (stimulus). In time, higher and higher doses of the stimulus are felt as necessary by the brain in order to receive at least the same amounts of pleasure as before, the body’s tolerance to the stimulus rendering it over time as less efficient


In time, the addiction is no longer used in order to obtain pleasure, but to avoid withdrawal symptoms and to maintain what has become a ‘normalized’ state

Symptoms and signs

Repeated failed attempts to give up the source of addiction


In the case of physical dependencies, withdrawal symptoms include:

Mood-related symptoms – bad temper, poor focus, depression, irritability, frustration, anger, resentment

Intense cravings for the source of addiction

Sudden increase in appetite


Problems related to bowel movement

Some substances can cause: trembling, seizures, extreme bouts of violence, hallucinations and sweats


The addictive behavior continues despite illnesses triggered by it


Obsessing in terms of maintaining a satisfying supply of the source of addiction


Engaging in risky activities either under influence or to obtain more quantities of said source


Using the addiction as a means of coping with various issues


Long periods of secrecy and solitude


Denying the existence of the addiction


Renouncing all other activities in favor of the addiction


Having hidden ‘stashes’ in various places


Choosing to persist in engaging in the addictive behavior despite relationship issues or financial problems


The first step in overcoming the addiction is for the person in question to recognize the existence of the problem


Chemical dependence treatment programs:

Individual, group or family therapy

Understanding the nature of the addiction to prevent relapsing

Levels of care adjusted to individual needs: outpatient, residential or inpatient programs



Also known as ‘withdrawal therapy’ is used in order to enable the patient to stop engaging in the repetitive behavior as quickly and safely as possible

In the case of various substances, withdrawal may take the form of various side effects

Detoxification may also involve the gradual reducing of the drug’s dosage or a temporary substitution with milder, but similar substances



Used mainly for providing the patient with suitable strategies to prevent relapsing and to cope with future cravings

Offers suggestions in the case of a relapse

Method for educating family and friends


Self-help groups:

Many use the 12-step program initiated by Alcoholics Anonymous

Focus on making sure that patients understand they are suffering from a mental disorder and that relapsing is part of the recovery

Decrease the sense of guilt, shame, and isolation

  • Addicts are just having a good time


    Addicts are lazy people


    They lack willpower


    A 12-step program is easy to do


    Self-help groups are cult-like


    Forced treatments fail – it is important for the patient to become compliant during the immersion in therapy, not necessarily beforehand


    One cannot be addicted if managing to occasionally quit


    Criminal incarceration will help cure addicts


    Relapsing is not normal and indicative of future engaging in addictive behaviors


An estimated 4.9% of the world’s adult population suffers from alcohol use disorder (240 million people – 7.8% of men, and 1.5% of women)


An estimated 22.5% of adults worldwide (1 billion people) smoke tobacco products (32.0% of men, 7.0% of women)


11% of deaths in males and 6% of females are due to tobacco use


Of ‘unsanctioned psychoactive drugs’ cannabis is the most commonly used – 3.5% of the globe’s adult population


3% of the world’s population (15 million) injects drugs


In countries where gambling addictions have been assessed, a prevalence of 1.5% is estimated

Did you know?

International Overdose Awareness Day takes place on August 31st every year


Addictions come in all shapes and sizes, the strangest ones including:


Cosmetic surgery

Ice chewing

Hair pulling


Dirt eating

Excessive exercising and an obsession with eating healthy foods (orthorexia)


Famous personalities that have dealt with various addictions include: Judy Garland, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Joaquin Phoenix, Hunter Thompson, Charlie Sheen, Anna Nicole Smith, Tennessee Williams, Billy Idol, Ozzy Osbourne, Natalie Cole, Whitney Houston, Scott Weiland, Sid Vicious, Robert Downey Jr., Johnny Depp, Kitty Dukakis, Christina Onassis, Robin Williams, Edie Sedgwick, Tony Curtis, Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love, Russell Brand, Elton John, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Marc Jacobs, Ike Turner, Pete Townsend, Montgomery Clift, Billie Holiday, Johnny Cash, Drew Barrymore, Heath Ledger, Donatella Versace, Diego Maradona, William S. Halsted, Betty Ford…