Symptoms and Signs of Addiction

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 1/25/2022

Doctor's Notes on Addiction

Addiction is a compulsive physiological need for and use of a habit-forming substance (or behavior activity) despite adverse consequences. Signs and symptoms of addiction are listed as having three or more of the following:

  • There is a need for increased amounts because of tolerance.
  • Withdrawal is evident when uncomfortable symptoms occur with absence of the substance.
  • Substance use is used in greater quantities or for longer times.
  • A person's efforts to cut down on use has failed.
  • Considerable time and effort are used in attaining the substance or recovering from its effects.
  • Important social, recreational, and employment activities are reduced or given up.

Researchers suggest that genetic susceptibilities and biological traits play a role in the cause of addiction. Also, environment is suggested to play a role. In addition, the substances and behaviors themselves may increase or change the reward circuits in the brain and augment addiction.

What Are the Treatments for Addiction?

There is no one treatment for addiction, no matter how the person has developed the problem. Addiction, in fact, is not even an official diagnosis. The term "substance use disorders" is used in place of addiction and officially covers drugs or alcohol use and not other types such as sex addiction and many other addiction types. The addiction patient must agree to participate with a treatment plan. Some addictive substances are dangerous to stop suddenly, so your doctor may need to slowly decrease the drug and/or behavior as part of a treatment plan. Almost every treatment plan has these components:

  • Counseling
  • Group support
  • Doctor-prescribed and supervised medication(s)
  • Treatment of other health issues (for example, depression, ADHD)

There are too many treatment variations to cover in this short introduction; the reader is suggested to click onto one of the conditions listed below. If your topic is not listed, call 1-800-662-4357 for help and more details.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.