What is Addiction

  • Despite the effect addiction has on loved ones or the addicted, it begins to dominate the brain and becomes consuming.
  • Addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that gets worse as time goes on and can cause death if left untreated. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain, its structure, and how it performs. Receptors in the brain that enable people to think things through become numb and can completely shut down. Substances stimulate the “reward circuit” of the brain and drive a person to repeat behaviors. This is how people begin to misuse and abuse substances.
  • Relapse is not inevitable in the recovery process of substance addiction; rather, it is common as compared to most other chronic diseases. The key is to understand that relapse is not failure. It is an indication that an individual may need changes in their treatment to regain control and resume the recovery process.
  • The fact that some people get addicted while others do not is explained through biological and environmental factors that differ in each unique individual. Genes, mental health disorders, and environmental surroundings all influence the addictive vulnerability of an individual.
  • The earlier a person uses drugs, the greater risk of addiction. Because the brain can continue to develop until age 30, substance use can affect the growth of the part of the brain that governs decision-making, self-control, and judgment skills.

Warning Signs

  • Smell or odor of a substance like cigarettes, alcohol, or marijuana on either your loved one or their friends
  • Early cigarette use
  • A difference in the way he or she is dressing or taking care of their personal appearance
  • Sudden erratic behaviors: mood swings, sudden aggression or anger without explanation
  • Noticeable weight gain or loss, change in eating habits or sleeping patterns
  • Loss of interest in his or her usual activities
  • A decline in school performance, failing grades, poor attendance at school or for work, behavior problems
  • Isolation and depression, or talks about being depressed or suicidal.
  • Law-breaking behaviors
  • Change in friends
  • Defensive about substance use
  • Increased need for money
  • Secretiveness, lying
  • Dilated pupils, red eyes
  • Evidence of paraphernalia in rooms drawn to drug or alcohol symbols.


  • Consuming a substance for long periods of time than intended and being unsuccessful in attempts to reduce or stop the use of the substance
  • Sacrifice large amounts of time trying to obtain substance and use the substance.
  • Uncontrolled cravings and impulses to use the substance
  • Work and social life are compromised due to the use of the substance.
  • Relationships and work performance suffer due to using of the substance.
  • Drug use continues to put you in physically dangerous situations, such as driving under the influence.
  • Continuing to use the drug despite declining health and wellness
  • Tolerance is developed due to repeated and continued use, meaning the substance does not have as big of an effect on you as it did in the early stages of use (therefore, a higher dose is being sought out)
  • When trying to reduce use, withdrawal symptoms occur
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