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What is Addiction?

With news reports of drug busts and drug abuse increasing, many people may wonder just what addiction is, and how does one tell if they are addicted to a drug or other substance? There are many myths about addiction. One of the myths about addiction is that addiction can only occur when someone begins to rely on a drug or other substance. Addiction can actually include harmful habits as well as drugs and other substances. Compulsive gambling, over-eating, “shopping therapy,” all of these habits are harmful to the person who is addicted to these destructive behaviors and are examples of addictions that are not substance abuse related. While someone may have a choice as to whether or not they begin using a substance or habit in their life, once someone has an addiction it can be almost impossible for them to simply stop, despite the consequences of their addiction. The thought that someone can merely decide to quit the addiction is another myth, as certain physical and psychological changes occur within the brain of the addict that makes it very difficult if not impossible for them to just quit. The rewards center of the brain is particularly affected in addiction. This is why it is often necessary for an addict to receive specialized care and addiction treatment in order to have the best chance of becoming addiction free. Addiction can be loosely defined as having a reliance on any person, place, thing, substance, drug, action or object while being unable to stop relying on it, regardless of what it is, despite negative consequences of continued use. One of the most common addictions is addiction to drugs or alcohol. It is not uncommon to find many misunderstandings about drug use and drug addiction both in the medical community as well as the community of drug users and the world at large. For a number of years, it was falsely assumed that there was no effective treatment for drug users and many doctors did not want to “waste their time” treating addiction patients or trying to find a cure. With millions of men and women all over the world struggling to fight their various addictions, thankfully there have been some dedicated health care professionals that have worked to study addiction and discover many diverse treatment methods that are effective in helping drug users defeat their addictions and begin to heal from the damage that drug use has caused in their lives and the lives of their loved ones. This research and many other types of information about drug abuse are now available by a new hotline and website to help everyone receive the information that they need to become drug free. Another myth about addiction, particularly drug addiction is that unless someone is seeking to become an addict in the first place they cannot become addicted. Most users may not have intended to start using drugs. Perhaps they went to a party and tried one pill out on a dare, and then found themselves powerless to stop trying to obtain the same sensation again and all that matters now is acquiring it again. Maybe they were in a car accident and had surgery and a doctor prescribed pain medication that took their physical pain away as well as made it easier to cope with their day to day life and now they can’t stop seeking to find that relief again, and it takes more and more of the medication to get the same relief and they just can’t stop it now. Maybe all of their friends were using, and they convinced the individual to try drugs too, and now they are powerless to escape.  Any of these scenarios can apply to the millions who have lost control over their lives due to addiction. While the reasons why someone begins using drugs can vary, the results are almost always the same. Thankfully, regardless of the reasons why someone becomes addicted, or the substance or action to which they are addicted, there are treatment programs available for nearly any addiction.