What is addiction?

There are many different definitions of addiction. But the experts seem to agree that when we use the term addiction, we are referring to a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.  If you are addicted to a drug, it is likely that you feel a profound need to use that substance over and over again even though there may be negative consequences.  You are likely addicted if you also continue to use substances even after the drugs have caused you serious problems like losing friends, jobs, homes or trouble with your family or the legal system.

As addiction or drug dependence continues, you have likely increased your consumption of the drug — maybe you started using a couple days a week and now you use four to five days a week, or maybe you binge whenever you have the money.  You may want to cut back on your use, and may have tried, but addiction changes the way the brain works, and once you are addicted to the drug, stopping without help or support can be almost impossible. The way your brain works has been influenced by drugs and you may find it more difficult to find pleasure in everyday life.

It’s often difficult to accept that your drug use is a problem. You may claim you can stop any time you want, but history probably shows that your desire to stay stopped goes away when faced with drug cravings or availability of the drug.  People in recovery often say “addiction is the only disease that tells you that you aren’t sick.”

If you are trying to overcome a substance abuse problem, please keep in mind that you are not a bad person trying to get good; you are a sick person, trying to get well.  Phoenix House can help.

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