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Addictive behavior is defined by “compulsive drug use despite negative physical and social consequences and the craving for effects other than pain relief.” Addiction, clinically referred to as substance use disorder (SUD), is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic, relapsing brain disorder. It is defined as a complex condition in which there is an uncontrolled need for a habit-forming substance resulting in harmful physical, psychological, or social effects. An individual struggling with addiction will prioritize satisfying his or her cravings above all else, and as drugs or alcohol become the central focus of one’s life, he or she will demonstrate a preference for these substances over relationships, school, work, and even life itself. Although there are many common characteristics among the various addictive behaviors, the six most prevalent include the following, provided by Medical News Today:

    1. Preoccupation with substance of choice: An individual will become obsessed with and spend increasingly more time and energy thinking of ways to procure more of their substance of choice, other ways they can use it, etc.
    2. Lack of impulse control: An individual will exhibit an inability to delay gratification or to avoid abusing substances despite potential consequences.
    3. Engages in risky behavior: An individual may take risks to obtain the substance (e.g., trading sex for drugs, stealing to pay for illicit drugs, etc.). While under the influence of certain substances, a person may engage in risky activities (e.g., violence, reckless driving, etc.).
    4. Withdrawal: When a substance that one’s body has become accustomed to functioning with is absent or has less of the substance in his or her system, it will be unable to function optimally, and withdrawal symptoms will ensue. Withdrawal is defined as “a negative reaction to the cessation of a substance, thing, or behavior an individual has become dependent upon.” Symptoms of withdrawal can range from emotional to physical and based on a variety of factors, will differ in severity and duration.
    5. Inability to stop: Despite a person’s serious attempts to give up their addiction, they are unable to stop abusing drugs.
  • Secrecy and denial: A person may become disinterested in spending time with others, as they prefer using substances alone, in secret. They may choose to give up and no longer participate in previously enjoyed pastimes with family and/ or friends. Though an individual may be aware of the presence of a physical dependence, they will often deny or refuse to accept the need for treatment, maintaining they are fully capable of stopping use on their own, anytime they wish.


The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

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