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Addiction

Chemical Addictions, The Nonchemical Addictions, The Addict, Treatment Of AddictionAddictions

Addiction is a compulsion to engage in unhealthy or detrimental behavior. Human beings can become addicted to many forms of behaviors such as gambling, overeating, sex, or reckless behavior, but the term "addiction" is most commonly used to refer to a physiological state of dependence caused by the habitual use of drugs, alcohol, or other substances. Addiction is characterized by uncontrolled craving, increased tolerance, and withdrawal symptoms when deprived of access to the addictive substance. Addictions afflict millions of people in the United States alone.

Addiction results from an incessant need to combat the negative side effects of a substance or situation by returning to that substance or situation for the initial enhancing effect. The desire for drugs such as heroin, cocaine, or alcohol all result from a need to suppress the low that follows the high. Other forms of addiction occur where seemingly harmless behaviors such as eating, running, or working become the focus of the addict's life.

Addiction and addictive substances have long been a part of human culture. The use of alcoholic beverages, such as beer, was recorded by the ancient Egyptians. The Romans and other early civilizations fermented, drank, and traded in wine. The infamous "opium dens" of the Far East offered crude opium. The discovery of America was accompanied by the discovery of tobacco, grown by the indigenous population.

Addiction today, especially addiction to illegal drugs, takes a heavy toll on modern society. Illegal drugs are easy enough to obtain, but they have a high price. In order to get money to feed their addiction, some addicts resort to theft or prostitution. Aside from criminal damage, addiction disrupts families and other social institutions in the form of divorce, abuse (mental and physical), and neglect.


There are two classifications for addiction: chemical and nonchemical. While dependency on substances that are ingested or injected is more commonly discussed, there are a number of nonchemical addictions that can lead to equally devastating lifestyles.


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