Understanding addiction

Addiction can affect anyone

People from all backgrounds experience addiction. Addiction doesn't care how old you are, how much money you make, or the color of your skin; it has no bias. While the initial choice to use a drug is often voluntary, the powerful effects of addiction makes it very hard to stop, even if someone wants to.

When drugs or alcohol are used so often that they have significant negative effects on your life, making it unlivable to the quality it was before, this is called a substance use disorder.

It causes intense cravings for alcohol or drugs, and can include:

  • Using illegal drugs like heroin or cocaine, or excessive alcohol drinking.
  • Using prescription drugs in ways other than prescribed, or using someone else’s prescription.

It's hard to stop on your own

Addiction is a chronic and treatable disease. Using drugs repeatedly changes the brain, including the parts that help exert self-control. That’s why someone may not be able to stop using drugs, even if they know the drug is causing harm, or feel ready to stop.

Some common behaviors of addiction and substance use disorder include:

  1. Trying to stop or cut down on drug use, but not being able to.
  2. Using drugs because of being angry or upset with other people.
  3. Taking one drug to get over the effects of another.
  4. Making mistakes at school or on the job because of using drugs.
  5. Drug use hurting relationships with family and friends.
  6. Being scared at the thought of running out of drugs.
  7. Stealing drugs or money to pay for drugs.
  8. Being arrested or hospitalized for drug use.
  9. Developing a tolerance, and needing larger amounts of drugs or alcohol to get high.
  10. Overdosing on drugs.

(Page published: October 2019)