Addiction, also known as substance use disorder, is a chronic and often relapsing condition characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disorder because drugs of abuse change the structure and function of the brain, leading to a strong, often uncontrollable urge to use drugs.
Addiction can involve any substance or behavior that leads to a release of dopamine in the brain’s reward system. This includes drugs such as opioids, stimulants, and alcohol, as well as behaviors such as gambling, sex, or eating.
The signs and symptoms of addiction can vary depending on the substance or behavior involved but may include:
- Loss of control over use
- Continued use despite negative consequences
- Cravings or strong urges to use
- Withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit
- Increased tolerance or needing more of the substance or behavior to achieve the same effect
- Difficulty fulfilling obligations at work, school, or home due to use
- Decreased interest in activities once enjoyed
Addiction is a complex condition that can be influenced by genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. Treatment for addiction may involve a combination of medication, behavioral therapy, and support groups. With proper treatment, recovery from addiction is possible, although it can be a long and challenging process.