Addiction And Recovery


Addiction is a complicated disease, often times chronic, and capable of delivering devastating consequences not only to the afflicted but everyone and everything around them.  And yes, addiction is a disease. It can permanently change one’s brain and body functioning. Like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, addiction is caused by a combination of behavioral, environmental, and biological factors.  

The most common symptoms of addiction are severe loss of control, significant preoccupation with using, multiple failed attempts to quit, tolerance, and withdrawal.  Addiction can be effectively treated and managed with a combination of healthcare professionals and family or peer support.


Addiction Prevalence

  • 40 million Americans aged 12 and older, or more than 1 in 7 people abuse or are addicted to nicotine, alcohol, or other drugs.  
  • Abuse of tobacco, alcohol and other illicit drugs cost our nation over $740 billion annually in costs related to crime, healthcare, and lost work production.
  • In 2014, SAMHSA published that over 8 million American adults battled both mental health disorders and substance use disorders concurrently.
  • Individuals who tried marijuana or alcohol before the age of 15 were almost four times as likely to suffer from a marijuana use disorder as an adult than those who waited until after age 18 to try these substances, according to SAMHSA.
  • Heroin addiction among young adults between 18 and 25 years old has doubled in the past 10 years
  • Over 3 percent of the older adult population may struggle with an alcohol use disorder.
  • Two-thirds of the population over the age of 65 who struggle with alcohol addiction, battled an alcohol use disorder at a younger age and carried it with them as they aged.
  • In 2013, adult men in the United States struggled with an alcohol use disorder at rates double those of women, 10.8 million as compared to 5.8 million
  • Men may be more likely to abuse illicit drugs than women, but women may be just as prone to addiction as men when they do abuse them
  • According to SAMHSA, Hispanics and whites suffered from substance abuse and dependence at similar rates in 2013, around 8.5 percent, while about 7.4 percent of African Americans struggled with it.
  • Almost twice as many people who are unemployed struggle with addiction than those who are full-time workers
  • About half of the population of American prisons and jails suffer from addiction, according to NCAAD.


As you can see, addiction can have a significant impact on our society; draining limited resources, destroying families, bankrupting businesses, and killing thousands upon thousands of people.  No one is really immune to the effects of addiction, whether you are the one afflicted with the disease or associated with someone who is afflicted with it. The sooner our society sees addiction as a disease the sooner more funding will go into research, and treatment programs.  There is a negative connotation surrounding addiction just like there still is with mental illness. Just getting people to stop abusing drugs or alcohol will not solve the problem. It is essential to address the whole person, every aspect of their lives, to ensure not only compliance with abstinence but to facilitate the development of productive members of society.

Other Addictions

Gambling Addiction:  (Also known as compulsive gambling, pathological gambling, or gambling disorder) Gambling addiction is an impulse control disorder.  The afflicted person cannot control the impulse to gamble, even when faced with negative consequences.  Problem gambling is any gambling that disrupts your life. If you are preoccupied with gambling, spending more and more time and money on it, or gambling despite the potential negative consequences then you have a gambling problem.  Many problem gamblers also suffer from other behavior or mood disorders like ADHD, stress, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse issues. To fully address the gambling issues, one would have to also address any other underlying issues.


Video-game Addiction: (or “gaming” disorder) Video game addiction was recently classified as a disease by the WHO (World Health Organization).  It is an impulse control disorder, similar to gambling addiction. Excessive gaming has been linked to depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and social phobia.  Internet gaming can be especially addictive because often times these games have no ending whereas most standard video games are single player and have a clear goal or mission to achieve.  It also is an escape from reality for many people, a place where they may feel most accepted. This separation from reality or real-life relationships can result in social isolation, and detachment leading to depressive and anxiety-related symptoms.   


Sex Addiction:  

Sex addiction is the active use of sexual behavior , whether it is through masturbation, an internet porn addiction, fetishes, and/or behaviors with self or others in a compulsive self-destructive pattern.  This is a real issue that affects millions of individuals, marriages, and families all over the world.

  1. Biological Sex Addict:  This person’s excessive masturbation and porn viewing has created a mindset based more on fantasy than real life.  May have problems with relationships.
  2. Psychological Sex Addict:  This person’s sexual behavior is more of a self-medicating tool; most likely in response to past abuse or neglect.
  3. Spiritual Sex Addict:  This person is seeking spiritual fulfillment through sexual behavior.  
  4. Trauma-based Sex Addict:  This person has experienced sexual trauma and their behavior is a repetitive reexperiencing of that trauma.
  5. Intimacy Anorexia Addict:  This behavior is related to withholding intimacy from the spouse or partner.
  6. Mood Disorder Sex Addict:  This person finds the sexual release as a way to medicate or alter their “chemical imbalance”; to change their mood or to feel better.  Unfortunately the feeling does not last long, hence the need to repeat the behavior.

Food Addiction

food addiction

Food addiction is when a person is unable to stop eating  despite consequences like weight gain or health risks. Not unlike drug addiction, food addiction can lead to cravings, tolerance, and withdrawal.  

Gearhardt, A., Corbin, W. & Brownell, K. (2012) developed a scale to help identify people who are showing signs and symptoms of food addiction.  

Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS)

Major food addiction signs and symptoms include:

  • Eating larger amounts and for a longer period of time than intended.
  • Experiencing a persistent desire or repeated unsuccessful attempts to quit.
  • Spending a great deal of time obtaining food, eating it, and recovering from overeating.
  • Giving up or reducing important social, professional, or recreational activities.
  • Continuing to overeat despite knowledge of adverse consequences (weight gain, nausea, diabetes).
  • Needing larger amounts of food over time to achieve the desired emotional effect (tolerance).
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms (intense cravings, feeling stress/anger, depression) when abstaining from overeating.

Addiction is a difficult disease to overcome due to its chronic and persistent nature.  It’s a lifelong process filled with positive and negative results. Even though at times it can be all too consuming, through proper treatment and support, the addicted individual can gain the strength needed to endure this terrible disease and live a better life.

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