Addiction is a disease that affects both the mind and the body on all levels. It's like being taken hostage and you can't get away without treatment. Substances and behaviors actually change brain function so that danger, harmful effects, job, personal relationship problems and other catastrophic consequences like arrests and overdoses are not recognized as problems. Getting the substance or behavior fix is more important than anything. Addiction is when obsession and physical cravings overcome reason. Like any chronic disease from cancer to diabetes, addiction can't be managed without treatment.
- Inability To Consistently Abstain
- Impairment in Behavioral Control;
- Craving; or increased “hunger” for drugs or rewarding experiences
- Diminished Recognition Of Significant Problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships
- A Dysfunctional Emotional Response American Society Of Addiction Medicine
Addiction Symptoms Translated
- Can't Stop No Matter What
- Can't Control Behavior
- Craves, Or Must Have, Drug Of Choice
- Can't See What's Wrong Or Recognize Any Problems
- Emotionally Impaired And Dysfunction Responses
More Detail On Addiction From American Society of Addiction Medicine
Addiction is more than a behavioral disorder. Features of addiction include aspects of a person’s behaviors, cognitions, emotions, and interactions with others, including a person’s ability to relate to members of their family, to members of their community, to their own psychological state, and to things that transcend their daily experience.
Behavioral manifestations and complications of addiction, primarily due to impaired control, can include:
- Excessive use and/or engagement in addictive behaviors, at higher frequencies and/or quantities than the person intended, often associated with a persistent desire for and unsuccessful attempts at behavioral control;
- Excessive time lost in substance use or recovering from the effects of substance use and/or engagement in addictive behaviors, with significant adverse impact on social and occupational functioning (e.g. the development of interpersonal relationship problems or the neglect of responsibilities at home, school or work);
- Continued use and/or engagement in addictive behaviors, despite the presence of persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problems which may have been caused or exacerbated by substance use and/or related addictive behaviors;
- A narrowing of the behavioral repertoire focusing on rewards that are part of addiction; and
- An apparent lack of ability and/or readiness to take consistent, ameliorative action despite recognition of problems.
Cognitive changes in addiction can include:
- Preoccupation with substance use;
- Altered evaluations of the relative benefits and detriments associated with drugs or rewarding behaviors; and
- The inaccurate belief that problems experienced in one’s life are attributable to other causes rather than being a predictable consequence of addiction.
Emotional changes in addiction can include:
- Increased anxiety, dysphoria and emotional pain;
- Increased sensitivity to stressors associated with the recruitment of brain stress systems, such that “things seem more stressful” as a result; and
- Difficulty in identifying feelings, distinguishing between feelings and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal, and describing feelings to other people (sometimes referred to as alexithymia).
The emotional aspects of addiction are quite complex. Some persons use alcohol or other drugs or pathologically pursue other rewards because they are seeking “positive reinforcement” or the creation of a positive emotional state (“euphoria”). Others pursue substance use or other rewards because they have experienced relief from negative emotional states (“dysphoria”), which constitutes “negative reinforcement.“ Beyond the initial experiences of reward and relief, there is a dysfunctional emotional state present in most cases of addiction that is associated with the persistence of engagement with addictive behaviors. The state of addiction is not the same as the state of intoxication. When anyone experiences mild intoxication through the use of alcohol or other drugs, or when one engages non-pathologically in potentially addictive behaviors such as gambling or eating, one may experience a “high”, felt as a “positive” emotional state associated with increased dopamine and opioid peptide activity in reward circuits. After such an experience, there is a neurochemical rebound, in which the reward function does not simply revert to baseline, but often drops below the original levels. This is usually not consciously perceptible by the individual and is not necessarily associated with functional impairments.
Over time, repeated experiences with substance use or addictive behaviors are not associated with ever increasing reward circuit activity and are not as subjectively rewarding. Once a person experiences withdrawal from drug use or comparable behaviors, there is an anxious, agitated, dysphoric and labile emotional experience, related to suboptimal reward and the recruitment of brain and hormonal stress systems, which is associated with withdrawal from virtually all pharmacological classes of addictive drugs. While tolerance develops to the “high,” tolerance does not develop to the emotional “low” associated with the cycle of intoxication and withdrawal. Thus, in addiction, persons repeatedly attempt to create a “high”--but what they mostly experience is a deeper and deeper “low.” While anyone may “want” to get “high”, those with addiction feel a “need” to use the addictive substance or engage in the addictive behavior in order to try to resolve their dysphoric emotional state or their physiological symptoms of withdrawal. Persons with addiction compulsively use even though it may not make them feel good, in some cases long after the pursuit of “rewards” is not actually pleasurable.5 Although people from any culture may choose to “get high” from one or another activity, it is important to appreciate that addiction is not solely a function of choice. Simply put, addiction is not a desired condition.
As addiction is a chronic disease, periods of relapse, which may interrupt spans of remission, are a common feature of addiction. It is also important to recognize that return to drug use or pathological pursuit of rewards is not inevitable.