Addiction information and stats

What is addiction?

Addiction is a serious problem in society, and it takes many forms; statistics show that addiction affects millions of people and families around the world. All addictions can be classified into two main categories: substance dependencies and behavior-based addictions.

Substance dependencies feature a physical and psychological addiction to drugs or alcohol—or both—and typically have complex underlying causes. People suffering from behavioral addictions engage in problematic activities that follow a pathological pattern. Heroin addiction or prescription drug addiction are examples of substance dependencies, while gambling addiction and sex addiction are examples of behavioral pathologies.

While the line between acceptable and problematic behavior is not always clear, clinicians and psychologists have created a definition of addiction that can be applied to determine whether or not a given individual requires treatment.

Important Defining Information about Addiction

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is the standard publication used by mental health professionals, cites the following as characteristics of addiction:

  • The patient persists in engaging in the addictive behavior despite being aware of the potential or already-realized risks involved.
  • The addictive behavior is compulsive and repetitive (with both substance and behavioral addictions).
  • In cases of substance dependence, the patient displays an increasing tolerance for the drug and its effects, and will take higher doses to achieve the desired effect even though there may be serious risks involved in doing so.
  • The patient experiences withdrawal symptoms if he or she attempts to discontinue use of the addictive substance. With behavioral addictions, the patient is unable to resist compulsions to continue the addictive behavior despite attempts to stop.

Seeking Addiction Treatment

Addiction stats are troubling. Current estimates suggest that as many as 16 million Americans need immediate treatment for an addiction problem. If you're ready to take action, you should speak to your family doctor, get a referral to see an addiction specialist or call an addiction treatment center in your area to connect with further addiction information and resources. An intervention may be necessary if the addict refuses to seek treatment, and it should be planned with the input and guidance of a mental health professional.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with substance abuse or behavioral addiction, you're not alone. Seeking help is the most difficult but most important step you will take.

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