Contact Therapy Insider Today!
For Mental & Behavioral
Health Support
Contact Us Today at


Female experiencing addiction and depression

causes of addiction signs/symptoms addiction treatment get professional help

Often when people think about addicts or addiction, it is common to associate these terms with individuals who are derelict or who exist on the "margins of society." The reality is, addiction or substance dependence can develop with anyone at any time, regardless of age, race, religion, socioeconomic status, or cultural background. Also, research shows that when people hear the word addiction, they typically associate it with a dependence on a substance such as alcohol or drugs (versus an activity), and for good reason. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an estimated 21.5 million Americans, aged 12 years or older, have a significant problem with drugs or alcohol.

What is Addiction?

Addiction is a medical condition of the brain that is characterized by a compulsive or persistent relationship with rewarding stimuli, despite negative or adverse consequences. It is often referred to as a disease or biological process that creates unhealthy attachments to a substance or activity, resulting in abusive and/or debilitating behaviors.

While the main focus of addiction is on substance abuse (drugs and alcohol), anyone can develop addictions to other activities and pursuits; and the effects that their choices have on the lives of family, friends, and loved ones can be equally as devastating. Although there are countless substances and/or activities that one may become addicted to, below is a list of the most common types of addiction.

Substance-Related Addictions

  • Alcohol Dependence
  • Drug Addiction
    • Marijuana Addiction
    • Caffeine Addiction
    • Tobacco/Nicotine
    • Cocaine Addiction
    • Heroin Addiction
    • Meth Addiction
    • Pain Medication Addiction
  • Inhalant Addiction (glues, aerosols, vapors)

Behavioral or Process Addictions

  • Food Addiction (overeating, binge eating)
  • Gambling Addiction
  • Internet Addiction
  • Pornography Addiction
  • Video Game Addiction (gaming)

Science shows that substance and behavioral addiction can occur within the same individual and that multiple variants of substance or process addiction can be expressed at the same time. Thus, people can have multiple addictions with each addition being active to differing degrees of severity.

More on this Topic
Addiction: What is it really? By Craig Rogers What Is Addiction? What Causes Addiction? Addiction has many meanings, and depending upon who you talk to addiction has many different outcomes… mostly negative. The dictionary defin..
Cocaine Use in Adolescents and Young Adults By Curtis Reed Cocaine is one the most dangerous drugs available to troubled  teenagers and  young adults . Cocaine is very addictive and the addiction can be difficult to combat. ..
Heroin Addiction in Adolescents and Young Adults By Logan Mazzettia While heroin addiction  has leveled off or even declined in more areas, there has been a dramatic spike in teenage and young adult heroin addiction . There are many c..
Marijuana Use in Adolescents and Young Adults By Craig Rogers Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drugs being used by troubled teens and  young adults today. The marijuana that is available to teens and young adults is..
Online and Gaming Addiction in Adolescents and Young Adults By Curtis Reed Online and gaming addiction has increased dramatically in the United States, mostly in teens and young adults . Gaming stimulates the brain's "reward centers" ..
Dangers of Alcohol and Adolescents Alcohol abuse among teens is very common. In fact, over 40 percent of high school students report trying alcohol by the eighth grade. Despite how common it is, teen alcohol abuse is not something that shou..


What Causes Addiction?

For addiction and addictive behavior, there are numerous causes. There are several factors, such as a) environment, b) genetics, and c) mental illness that can contribute to the development of substance abuse, drug addiction, and dependence. The main factors are:

  • Coping Method: a person's coping mechanism to escape from physically painful or emotionally unpleasant feelings.
  • Environment: factors such as one's family beliefs, attitudes, and encouragement to substance use.
  • Genetics: one's genetic predisposition for addiction or substance abuse.
  • Pleasure Seeking: one's natural craving or curiosity for things that give pleasure.
  • Mental Illness: moderate to severe mental health disorders or mental illness.
  • Dependence: an acquired physical dependence on a particular substance (or substances); which causes changes in brain nerve cells after repeated use.

The Brain and Pleasure Response

Substance use, as a coping mechanism, is closely tied to both pleasure seeking and physical dependence. Addiction is a disorder of the brain's reward system, and has been the subject of biological and psychological discussion for over a century. With today’s advancements in brain mapping, pharmacological studies and genetic testing, new discoveries are being made which lend tremendous insights into the world of addiction. We are learning a great deal about how the brain reacts to extended or repeated exposure to certain chemicals or behaviors and how the pleasure center is utilized to create addictive patterns as a coping mechanism for many individuals.

In short, the brain works like a master servant, always trying to find the most efficient ways to reward the body with a pleasure response, as that is the way we feel the best. As the body is built to drive us toward pleasure and away from pain, the brain is quick to find replacements or supplements to help it with its overall objective. On its own, the brain will release dopamine, a neuro chemical that produces a good feeling in the body when something good happens. The danger comes when we introduce substances that work in similar fashion to our bodies own reward system. When we give the body another way to feel good that is not naturally created in the body, our minds will then create a trigger or desire for that substance again and again.

Genetics and Mental Illness

Genetics and mental illness are also closely tied together when it comes to the underlying causes of addiction. According to reports published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 50 percent of individuals with severe mental disorders are affected by substance abuse; and about 20 percent of Americans with an anxiety or mood disorder (such as depression) have a substance use disorder. Also, genetics and family history can play a significant role in one's propensity for substance abuse or habitual behavior. According to the Addictions and Recovery, a person is eight times as likely to be an addict if one of your parents is/was an addict.

More on this Topic
Causes for Substance Abuse and Addiction Being a teenager and raising a teenager are individually, and collectively, enormous challenges. For many teens, illicit substance use and abuse have become part of the landscap..

signs & symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Drug addiction is a monster that often catches loved ones unaware. This is because those going down the road of addiction generally feel embarrassed or ashamed of the behavior, and do everything in their power to hide it. By the time family members or others close to them discover the problem, the addict is often past the point of quitting on their own. Learning about the nature of drug abuse and addiction - why and how it develops, what it looks like, and why it can have such a powerful hold, will give you a better understanding of the problem and how to best deal with it.

Young female showing addiction signs

What Are Signs of Addiction?

When it comes to health treatment, a sign is something other people notice, such as a doctor, family member, friend, or co-worker.

For example, below are common signs of addiction and/or drug abuse:

  • Physical Signs:
    • Eyes are bloodshot, glassy, and/or constricted/dilated pupils
    • Showing slurred speech or impaired coordination
    • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Behavioral Signs:
    • Attendance and/or performance at work/school diminishing
    • Money problems or financial issues that are unexplained
    • Sudden change in friends, hangouts, and/or hobbies
  • Psychological Signs:
    • Sudden mood swings, irritability, and/or anger
    • Unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or flightiness
    • Appears lethargic, unmotivated, and/or spaced out
    • Fearful, paranoid, and/or anxious appearance

What Are Symptoms of Addiction?

A symptom, in the medical field, is something the patient or individual senses or describes.

See examples below of common symptoms of addiction:

  • Physical Symptoms:
    • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and/or poor focus
    • Built up a drug tolerance, feeling the need to use more of the substance for same effect
    • Feeling sick; such as nausea, restlessness, insomnia, depression, or shaky
    • Feeling little or no desire for upkeep and personal appearance/grooming
  • Behavioral Symptoms:
    • Excessive desire to use/abuse substances or compulsively engage in a particular activity
    • Feeling a loss of control with drug dosage/quantity, using more than planned
    • Experiencing thoughts of stealing or other illegal activity to support habit
    • Feeling an unusual need for privacy, and hiding day-to-day activities from loved ones

It can be difficult to determine if you, or someone you love, is caught in the grasp of addiction. There are some telltale signs that can give tremendous insight into how far one's addiction has progressed. Substance dependence can cause powerful cravings. The addict may want to give up (quit), but finds it extremely difficult to do so without help.

More on this Topic
Adolescent Alcohol Abuse By Frank Samuelson Alcohol and drug use is the nation's number one problem with youth, and has become a major mental health problem in the US.  Alcohol abuse greatly increases an adolescent's risk for injuries, ..
Adolescent Drug Rehab By Frank Samuelson Here are some facts about why adolescent drug rehab is so important. Forty percent of U.S. teens say they expect to use a drug in the near future. More scary, one 1 out of 5 adolescent eighth grades..
Adolescent Drug Treatment Programs By Craig Rogers Your search for adolescent drug treatment programs is one of the most important processes you will ever face.  This decision is extremely critical, and you need to be informed, educat..
Signs of Substance Abuse and Addiction Substance dependence is interchangeable with the term " drug addiction ". Drug addiction is a term used to describe an individual's compulsive need to use addictive substances in order to function normally..
Food Addiction in Adolescents and Young Adults By Logan Mazzettia Compulsive overeating, also referred to as food addiction , is characterized by an obsessive/compulsive relationship with food. Experiments in animals and humans show that, f..
Illicit Drug Use Adolescents and Troubled Teens By Curtis Reed Experimentation with illicit drugs during adolescent years is common today.  Unfortunately, troubled teens often don't see the link between their actions today and the conse..
Meth Addiction  By Frank Samuelson Meth addicts are very dangerous and will do just about anything for a fix. If you suspect a member of your family using meth, the time to act is now. Meth is known under various names Ice, ch..


Substance Abuse Treatment

While it is correct to assume that Alcohol and Substance abuse (namely illicit and prescription drugs) are the most prevalent types of addiction facing families today, there are plenty of other behavioral addictions or process addictions that interrupt growth and destroy lives, such as: gambling, food, sex, social media, gaming, pornography, and a host of other media based activities. And, although not every addiction causes immediate problems, affording some the ability to function in normal settings, there is generally a tragic outcome for those who do not seek out the type of help that can bring their life back into balance and away from dependency.

What Is Addiction Treatment?

Addiction treatment (or "rehab") is a form or method of therapeutics designed to help an individual begin the recovery process from their mode or compulsion with which they are addicted (a.k.a., drug of choice). Rehab is intended to help addicted individuals stop their compulsive behavior or stop seeking the use and/or abuse of substances. Treatment can occur in a variety of settings, take many different forms, and last for different lengths of time.

What Are The Types of Addiction Treatment?

Addiction treatment can include medications, behavioral therapies, or their combinations, and is different for each individual; therefore treatment can be customized based on each person’s unique needs and situation.

  • 5 Basic Treatment Types Are:
    • Inpatient treatment
    • Outpatient treatment
    • Sober living homes (recovery housing)
    • Support groups (12-steps)
    • Addiction counselors

Treatment for Drug Abuse and Addiction

Inpatient treatment allows an addict to fully focus on his or her recovery. Attending an inpatient treatment facility can also greatly increase the chance of successfully completing a treatment program for drug abuse, particularly if an addict does not have a good support system at home. Outpatient treatment can guide some addicts through all stages of their recovery; however, some addicts use outpatient treatment to help them during the later stages of recovery. Sober Living Homes provide supervised, short-term housing for patients, often following other types of inpatient treatment; and serving as a half-way home helping the transition to independent life. The role of an addiction counselor is to provide unbiased guidance for those going through a treatment program; while Support Groups (such as A.A., N.A., or any other 12-step program) are instrumental to continued sobriety after rehab.

Drug Rehab Centers

Although there are various types of rehab centers, that treat various types of addictions (alcohol, prescription drugs, street drugs such as cocaine, heroin or amphetamines, and behavioral addiction), the general purpose for rehab centers is to provide a solitary place where a patient can cease their destructive behavior. Drug rehab centers will typically begin each new patient in a detox phase (where the patient is slowly weaned off their substance of abuse). This phase is typically not necessary for those individuals in rehab with behavioral or process addiction (gambling, sex, eating, etc).

Rehab treatment will include both medication (for depression and/or treating withdrawal symptoms) as well as psychological therapy, group therapy, and counseling.

The three general types of rehab centers and rehab treatment are:

  • Inpatient Addiction Treatment (typically a 30+ day program where the patient stays at the facility 24/7)
  • Outpatient Rehab Treatment (a facility that allows daily sessions of treatment and therapy, after which the patient goes home)
  • Extended Care/Long-Term Rehab (a 60-90+ day program where the patient stays at the facility 24/7)

Addiction Treatment Therapies

Therapies used in addiction treatment are based on an individual’s health and substance abuse patterns.

  • Common therapies used are::
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
    • Motivational enhancement therapy (MET - read more about MET)
    • Family therapy
    • Twelve-step programs
    • Medication (primarily for withdrawal symptoms)

Drug addiction, which is now also called substance use disorder, is a formed dependence on one or more legal or illegal substances. Yes, this dependence can just as easily happen with legal drugs such as prescription pain killers or anti-depressants, as it can with illegal drugs like cocaine or heroin. These drugs, although monitored differently by the law, have primarily the same brain-reward effect, leading the abuser down the road of addiction.

At Therapy Insider, we have teamed up with the top mental health professionals and rehabilitation centers in the nation to offer custom, individualized care for those seeking treatment. Our partners offer cutting edge solutions for addicts, as well as numerous treatment plans for teens battling with behavioral or emotional issues such as anxiety, eating disorders and depression.

More on this Topic
Gambling Addiction in Adolescents and Young Adults By Curtis Reed Gambling addiction , also known as compulsive gambling, is a type of impulse-control disorder. Troubled teenagers and young adults suffering from th..
Drug Addiction Treatment The Three Initial Steps to Drug Addiction Treatment - It's a Lifelong Journey! A troubled teen and young adult's full recovery from drug addiction is a difficult, albeit far-from-impossible, jo..
Drug Rehabilitation Programs  By Frank Samuelson Teen and young adult drug addiction is a disease that affects not only the individual but those close to the individual. When a teen or  young adult succumbs..


Find an addiction counselor in your area

Addiction Treatment Professionals and Counselors

Do not wait to intervene in the life of a loved one. Often, those around the addict are confused as to what they should do and wait too long to step in. In most cases, there is a need for intervention and professional help from a substance abuse or addiction counselor (or treatment program) in order for the addict to break the cycle and recover.

When someone you love becomes addicted, they are not able to control their drug use and will seek out ways to use the drug for non medicinal reasons, despite the harmful damage that can occur. Those suffering from drug addiction develop intense cravings for their drug of choice, which can cause erratic, abnormal behavior. Many want to quit, but the desire and urge is so overwhelming that they often succumb to the cravings and sink quickly into a vicious cycle of dependence and shame.

Drug addiction often leads to serious, long-term consequences for the user, including dramatic changes to both their physical and mental health, relationships, employment opportunities and even trouble with the law. For things to change, you may need help from your doctor, family, friends, support groups or an organized treatment program to overcome your drug addiction and stay drug-free.

At Therapy Insider, we have teamed up with the top mental health professionals and rehabilitation centers in the nation to offer custom, individualized care for those seeking treatment. Our partners offer cutting edge solutions for addicts, as well as numerous treatment plans for teens battling with behavioral or emotional issues such as anxiety, eating disorders and depression.

back to top of page

More on this Topic
Adolescent Sober Living Homes By Logan Mazzettia Adolescent Sober Living Homes are designed to be an aftercare program for adolescents committed to live sober lives after completing a drug and alcohol treatment program. There many adoles..
Teens and Alcoholism By Logan Mazzettia Alcoholism in teens is very prevalent as Alcohol has become the drug of choice for many adolescents.  Many teens participating in underage drinking, alcohol use often leads to alcohol abuse ..
What is Sex Addiction Sex addiction is defined as the compulsive need to engage in sexual thoughts and acts despite the negative effects it has on the self and family. These negative setbacks intensify as the addiction progresses. If yo..
Pornography Addiction  By Logan Mazzettia Pornography addiction was unheard of prior to everyone owning a computer.  People who sought out porn usually had to visit an adult store, buy magazines and store them underneath their beds..
Drug Addiction Treatment The Three Initial Steps to Drug Addiction Treatment - It's a Lifelong Journey! A troubled teen and young adult's full recovery from drug addiction is a difficult, albeit far-from-impossible, journey. This voyage&n..