Addiction is an oft-misunderstood condition that continues to wreak significant havoc on individuals, families, and communities across the United States and throughout the world.

Facts About Addiction

Because of certain unfortunately persistent misconceptions about addiction, it is important to understand the facts about addiction:

  • Addiction is a chronic, progressive disease.
  • Addiction is NOT a failure of willpower or evidence of a character flaw.
  • Addiction is a disease that can affect adolescents, teens, and adults of all races, ethnic groups, and socioeconomic strata.
  • Addiction is NOT something that only impacts “bad people” or “weak people.”
  • Addiction is a complex disorder that, if left untreated, can cause significant damage — including death
  • Addiction is NOT a choice, an excuse, or an attempt to dodge responsibility.
  • Perhaps most importantly, addiction is a disease that can be treated — and with effective professional intervention, individuals who are struggling with addiction can (and do) achieve happier and healthier lives in recovery.

Other Facts About Addiction & Diagnosis

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) addiction is defined as “a maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by three (or more) of the following, occurring any time in the same 12-month period”:

1. Tolerance, as defined by either of the following: (a) A need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or the desired effect or (b) Markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance.

2. Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following: (a) The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance or (b) The same (or closely related) substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

3. The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended.

4. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use.

5. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance, use the substance, or recover from its effects.

6. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use.

7. The substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance (for example, current cocaine use despite recognition of cocaine-induced depression or continued drinking despite recognition that an ulcer was made worse by alcohol consumption).

Types of Addiction and Statistics

There are many different types of addiction, though the criteria above establish one clinical definition for addiction, this disease can manifest in different ways depending upon many factors. Addiction can vary based upon the substance involved, the age and gender of the addicted individual, and the presence of co-occurring conditions. And while this page has focused on substance addictions, individuals have also become addicted to behaviors such as sex, gambling, and spending time on the Internet.

The following are among the more common types of addiction today:

Alcoholism – Experts with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA – a division of the U.S. National Institutes of Health) estimate that about 18 million people in the United States have an alcohol use disorder (either persistent alcohol abuse or alcoholism). Alcoholism is associated with a range of dangers, including health problems, psychological problems, crime, accidents, and suicide.

Prescription Drug Addiction– Once a relatively minor contributor to national addiction statistics, prescription drug abuse and addiction have become stunningly prevalent in the United States in recent years. The explosion in prescription drug addiction has been attributed to a variety of factors, including ease of access (especially via illicit Internet pharmacies) and mistaken belief that prescription drugs are “safer” to abuse because they have legitimate medical uses.

Nicotine Addiction — Though smoking has declined significantly in the United States in recent decades, nicotine addiction remains a common threat. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 19.3 percent of the U.S. adult population (more than 45 million people ages 18 and above) smoke cigarettes or use smokeless tobacco — the most common delivery systems for nicotine. The CDC describes smoking as “the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.”

Get Help Now!

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, know this: Help is available, treatment works, and recovery is within your grasp. To learn more – or to get help today, contact us: