Habits and Behaviors - Addiction

Addiction is most commonly defined as dependence on harmful, habit-forming drugs (although drugs do not always have to be the object of the addiction). When most people think of the word addiction, they conjure images of a world they expect never to know. They imagine emaciated heroin addicts in dark alleys or remember rock stars long dead from overdoses. Addiction doesn't always look as menacing as public-service announcements or after-school television programs depict it to be. In fact, many people come into contact with some kind of addiction every day or are addicted to some substance they might consider benign (harmless). While addiction is common,

Habits and Behaviors: Words to Know

The state of needing to compulsively repeat a behavior.
Altered consciousness:
A state of awareness that is different from typical, waking consciousness; often induced with the use of drugs and alcohol.
Harmless; also, non-cancerous.
Compulsive behavior:
Behavior that is repeated over and over again, uncontrollably.
Coming down from being high on drugs or alcohol.
The habit of mixing illegal drugs with another substance to produce a greater quantity of that substance.
Mental disturbance marked by confusion, disordered speech, and even hallucinations.
A reliance on something or someone.
The process of freeing an individual of an intoxicating or addictive substance in the body or to free from dependence.
Having the feeling of well-being or elation.
Something inherited through one's genes.
A behavior or routine that is repeated.
The illusion of seeing or hearing something that does not really exist.
The syndrome that occurs after being high on drugs or drinking alcohol, often including nausea, headache, dizziness, and fuzzy-mindedness.
Substances that people sniff to get high.
Habitual stealing.
A phrase repeated during meditation to center the mind.
A practice that helps one to center and focus the mind; sometimes used to help recovering addicts.
A dangerous, often deadly, reaction to taking too much of a certain drug.
One's consciousness and way of observing things.
To be susceptible to something.
An era in the 1920s when alcohol was made illegal.
Something that affects brain function, mood and behavior.
Psychological vulnerability:
Used to describe individuals who are potential candidates for drug addiction because of prior experiences or other influences.
Habitual need to start fires.
Observances or ceremonies that mark change, renewal, or other events.
When a person treats an ailment, mental or physical, with alcohol or drugs rather than seeing a physician or mental health professional.
Human-made; not occurring in nature.
The build-up of resistance to the effects of a substance.
The phase of removal of drugs or alcohol from the system of the user.

becoming addicted to a substance or an activity can have serious consequences. And it's not something that just happens to "other" people.

Many adults, and an increasing number of teenagers, drink coffee first thing every morning. In fact, many people feel that without their first cup, normal daily functioning seems impossible. This reflects the problem inherent to addiction—the need itself. The subject of the addiction may seem harmless or even healthy (such as exercise addiction), but too much of anything can be dangerous. Having a cup of coffee once in a while because it tastes good is not a problem; however, caffeine (the addictive substance in coffee) addiction can eventually make people sick.

In the case of alcoholics (those addicted to alcohol), many feel that they must have a drink before they can socialize. Similarly, sugar addicts cannot go for very long without eating something sweet. In fact, they can get depressed, anxious, and irritable when deprived of sugar. Addictions of all types, whether they are to hard drugs, such as heroin, or everyday substances, such as caffeine or sugar, can disrupt a person's life and ruin his or her mental and physical well-being. Addiction to drugs and alcohol, because they are mind-altering substances, poses more of a direct threat to the user than do substances that don't immediately change one's perception.


Addiction is dependence on something or someone. Infants, for example, are dependent on their parents for sustenance and other basic needs, such as shelter. Addicted people are dependent on a substance to function normally and feel good. Addicts are scared of the consequences of separation from their substance of choice. Addicted people exist at many levels of functioning and degrees of healing. There are addicts in all walks of life, from physicians and attorneys to schoolteachers and actors. Some of these individuals are able to perform their jobs without anyone else becoming aware of a problem. They are able to fool others into thinking they can function normally. For other individuals, however, their addictions prevent them from holding onto a job or even engaging in activities with family and friends.

Whatever the case, whatever a person's level of functioning, to truly heal, addicts need to admit to themselves that they need help. Healing from addiction is a process of really taking a good look at one's own self. Self-examination can be quite intimidating, and many people would rather avoid it and hide in drinking, drugging or codependence. Self-discovery means not only uncovering the positive attributes a person may not be aware of; it also means coming to terms with shortcomings, flaws, and inadequacies and learning to accept those things.

Learning about the different forms of addiction and tools for healing can help those suffering from it. These coping strategies can help friends and family of people with addictions, too.

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