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 an ongoing, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. This means someone who is addicted to drugs feels a profound need to use a substance, over and over again even though there are often terrible consequences. Teens who are addicted continue to use substances even after the drugs have caused problems for them–even big problems, like losing friends, flunking school, or finding themselves in trouble with the legal system.

As addiction or drug dependence continues, teens tend to increase their consumption of the drug — they use larger amounts, for longer periods of time or binge more frequently. Many teens who are addicted want to cut back on their use, and many try, but addiction changes the way the adolescent brain develops and works, and once addicted to the drug, stopping without special help can be almost impossible.

Teens often do not admit that their drug use is a problem. They either blame their use on someone else, or claim they can stop any time they want. People in recovery often say “addiction is the only disease that tells you that you aren’t sick.”

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