Addiction is defined in the dictionary as the state of being enslaved by a habit, practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming to the extent that discontinuation causes severe trauma. In the world of drug and alcohol addiction, the definition has a slightly greater meaning as it relates to the life of the addicted individual. There are certain signs and symptoms of addiction that reach far beyond dependence on a substance, and enter into the behaviors of an addicted individual. In fact, one can be physically dependent on a substance without fitting the definition of addiction, as it applies to addiction treatment.

Addiction vs. Dependence

The big difference between dependence and addiction is behavior. One can be dependent on a drug, for example, benzodiazepines. However, if he or she continues to take these drugs as directed by his/her doctor, and never experiences any form of unmanageability or drug-seeking behavior, one cannot be labeled as an addict in need of treatment. Dependence on a drug in the physical sense does not equate to addiction. Even psychological dependence does not necessarily mean one is addicted to something. There are some situations in which individuals need the effects of a drug or substance to manage severe and chronic pain, such as with cancer patients, or those suffering from severe pain disorders. There is only one difference between dependence and addiction, and it is the behavior of the individual. Dependence is not inextricably linked to addiction, but it can play a role in it when an individual is engaging in addictive behavior. Addiction is classified as a behavioral problem because it is the behaviors associated with addiction that make it a separate condition from dependence. Most of the behaviors associated with addiction are a direct result of the changes that take place in the brain during chronic drug use. As an individual uses drugs that produce an abnormally high level of dopamine flooding the reward center of the brain, natural production of dopamine decreases to virtually nil. As a major contributor to feelings of well-being and pleasure, dopamine is essential for human survival and motivation. When drugs are the only thing(s) producing dopamine, an individual is singularly motivated to use more drugs for feelings of well-being and pleasure. The longer this pattern continues, the more addiction progresses in the psychological sense. At the point of developed addiction, an individual will begin to show signs and exhibit behaviors that are indicative of addiction, rather than dependence.

Signs of Addiction

When an individual is addicted to a substance, drugs have become his or her priority in life. This does not mean that he/she will not try to maintain and pay attention to other things and people. Unfortunately, an addict’s ability to juggle multiple things with his or her addiction is very difficult, and can become virtually impossible as addiction progresses. Most of the signs of addiction are behavioral, and can be noticed by those who are close to the addict. These signs include such behaviors as:

  • Increased isolation from loved ones
  • Loss of interest in once enjoyable things and activities
  • Urgent need for privacy (such as locking doors and retreating to uncommon places for solitude)
  • Inability to get or maintain a job as a result of erratic behavior and/or frequent absenteeism
  • Unexplained financial problems
  • Increase in legal trouble and criminal charges
  • Drastic changes in physical appearance (i.e. weight loss/gain, personal hygiene)
  • Frequent and drastic mood swings
  • Neglecting responsibilities and obligations at work, school, and in personal life
  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Increased unexplained absences from gatherings or events
  • Becoming irate or angry when confronted about drug use
Many of these signs of addiction apply across all drugs of abuse. The behaviors associated with addiction are the result of an addict’s need to get and use drugs. If an addict has drugs to produce feelings of well-being, he or she tends to be more manageable and respectful toward others. However, if drugs are in short supply or unavailable, an addict can suddenly change his or her behavior and become hostile and agitated in a very short period of time. To people on the outside, it can seem like an addict has two personalities because his/her mood swings can be so extreme. The reason for this is because the very happiness and well-being of an addict relies upon his or her ability to use drugs.

Withdrawal Symptoms of Addiction

If there is no way for an addict to use the drug(s) of his or her choice, he or she will begin to feel withdrawal symptoms. Depending on the drug of addiction, withdrawal symptoms can be psychological and/or physical, with symptoms ranging from moderate to severe and life threatening. The following table outlines the withdrawal symptoms associated with various drugs of addiction.

StimulantsAlcohol     Benzos     
High Fever
Nausea and Vomiting
Muscle pain and spasms
Abdominal pain
Severe cravings
Vivid and Disturbing Nightmares
High blood pressure
While the only withdrawal symptoms that may be life threatening are seizures from alcohol and benzodiazepine withdrawal, the process is generally very safe and individuals are given medications to increase comfort and facilitate sleep. Withdrawal from all other drugs of addiction is not life threatening, but the pain and discomfort can be severe enough to justify medication to facilitate sleep, lower blood pressure, and ease anxiety.

Overcoming Addiction

Addiction is a behavioral problem, and the longer it remains unaddressed, the worse it gets. As a progressive disease with no cure, addiction has destroyed thousands of lives, and continues to do so with each passing year. Because addiction is behavioral, it is also very personal for many addicts. The vast majority of individuals who struggle with addiction suffer from some form of trauma, pain, or inner turmoil that either contributes to, or has caused the destructive behaviors that lead to addiction. Just as a personal journey led most addicts to addiction, recovery is also a personal journey, and should be sought out as such. Over the past several decades of addiction treatment, a massive shift has taken place, in which addiction rehab centers are offering more personalized approaches to treatment, tailored to each individual and his or her needs, preferences, and belief system. Nonexistent 30 years ago, today’s drug rehab centers can offer wide varieties of treatment such as:

  • 12-step
  • Holistic
  • Catholicism based
  • Muslim faith based
  • Self discipline
  • Native American
  • Judaism based
  • Christian based
  • Gender specific
  • Age specific
  • GLBT community based
There are so many options from which to choose for rehab, it can be very difficult to determine what would be best for an addict in need of help. The goal of addiction rehab is to empower each addict to find his or her own path to recovery from addiction, and do so in a way that best relates to the individual. Understanding that one type of treatment program may be the best for one addict, but may not resonate with another, is the reason for the massive variety in addiction treatment programs. However, it is important not to take these options lightly. Addiction is a deadly disease, and if addiction treatment is not effective, there may not be another chance to get it right. An informed decision should always be made, and it should be based on the individual, his or her needs, preferences, and belief system. If you, or a loved one are struggling with addiction, please call us now at 1 (877) 413-8512 to speak with a trained counselor about your situation and concerns. We will talk with you and work with you to help you narrow down the best options with the knowledge of what they are, and why they may work best for sustained sobriety for yourself or your loved one. It is critical not to waste valuable time, as getting effective treatment for addiction is urgent. Don’t give addiction another day to progress. Call us now, and get help for yourself or your addicted loved one. We are here to help.

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