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Addiction (cont.)

Common Characteristics of Destructive Addictions

The essence of addiction is drug craving, seeking, and use, in the face of negative health or social consequences. This is the basis for how the Institute of Medicine, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Medical Association define addiction. Some common characteristics of addictions include the following:

  • The substance or activity that triggers addiction must initially cause feelings of pleasure and changes in emotion or mood.
  • The body develops a physical tolerance to the substance or activity, so people with addictions must take larger and larger amounts of a substance to feel the same effects.
  • Removal of the drug or activity causes painful withdrawal symptoms.
  • More than physical tolerance, an addiction involves physical and psychological dependence separate from the need to avoid the pain of withdrawal.
  • Addiction always causes physiological, chemical, and anatomical changes in the brain along with behavioral changes.
  • Addiction develops after an initial exposure to the addicting substance or activity. That initial exposure must occur for addiction to develop, but the exposure does not always lead to addiction.
  • Addictions lead to repeated behavioral problems, take a lot of time and energy, and are marked by a gradual obsession with the drug or behavior.
  • The cycle of quitting the addictive behavior, going through withdrawal, and relapsing may become self-reinforcing.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/19/2014
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