Addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (e.g., alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (e.g., gambling, sex, shopping) that can be pleasurable but the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health. Users may not be aware that their behavior is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others.When referring to any kind of addiction, it is important to recognize that its cause is not simply a search for pleasure and that addiction has nothing to do with one’s morality or strength of character. Experts debate whether addiction is a “disease” or a true mental illness, whether drug dependence and addiction mean the same thing, and many other aspects of addiction. Such debates are not likely to be resolved soon. But the lack of resolution does not preclude effective treatment.
Addiction is a treatable condition. The first phase of treatment from is withdrawal from the problem substance/activity. There are both physical and psychological effects that occur when substance-taking stops, including such physical signs as nausea and vomiting, chills and sweats, muscle cramps and aches, sleeplessness, shifts in heart rate, even fever. Emotional effects include depression, anxiety, irritability, and mood swings. Withdrawal symptoms typically last three to five days. While they are rarely life-threatening, medical supervision is usually provided in residential treatment programs, and medications may be given to ameliorate the acute discomfort of withdrawal. Behavioral therapy and counseling are important elements of treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy is often used to help patients identify, avoid, and cope with situations in which they are most likely to abuse drugs or activities. The technique of motivational interviewing is often employed to remind people of their values, as a way of avoiding use. Family therapy may be provided to help the patient maintain a supportive environment and improve family functioning.