Thu. Sep 23rd, 2021

When Does Substance Abuse Become Addiction?

Many of us did not realize that we were addicted to substances until it was too late. There are a variety of factors that influence addiction and no single timeline of when substance abuse becomes addiction.

An individual is more likely to become addicted if they start young, have biological and genetic predispositions to addiction, have mental health problems, and are in an environment where drugs are being used. Addiction is a progressive disease, and at some point, we come to the realization that we have lost the power of choice and need to seek help if we are to recover.

Addiction occurs when ingesting a substance or engaging in an activity become compulsive and interferes with our quality of life. We may face consequences in our work, relationships, responsibilities, and health, but still we are unable to stop using. Physical dependence may be a component, but is not necessary for one to have an addiction.

Psychology Today explains, “The word addiction is used in several different ways. One definition describes physical addiction. This is a biological state in which the body adapts to the presence of a drug so that drug no longer has the same effect, otherwise known as tolerance. Another form of physical addiction is the phenomenon of overreaction by the brain to drugs (or to cues associated with the drugs).” However, addiction can also be entirely psychological.

Gambling, sex, and shopping, for example, can become addictions even though the element of physical dependence does not exist. At its core, addiction can be seen as powerlessness over drugs and/or alcohol, and unmanageability of one’s life as a result of compulsive substance abuse.

Addiction is a progressive and fatal disease, but recovery is possible. Once we have progressed from substance abuse into addiction, we can never go back to a time when we may have been able to control our drinking or drug use—we have lost the power of choice.


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