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Addiction isn’t a choice. While we might choose to use drugs or alcohol socially, no one chooses to become an addict – and few realize when they cross that invisible line between fun and games and a serious problem. Addiction is a brain disease. Addiction causes changes in the brain and these changes make it very difficult for a person to break free from drug or alcohol addiction on will-power alone. Most people who experience these changes in the brain will need professional addiction treatment to learn how to overcome temptation and relapse. Read on to learn the difference between substance abuse and addiction and to find out if you may be an addict. Read about the warning signs of addiction and find out what types of treatment really work to help people overcome addiction and live happier and healthier lives.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) addiction is a brain disease that is characterized by:

  • Compulsive behaviors to get and use drugs or alcohol
  • Continuing to use drugs or alcohol despite obvious harms from that use
  • Changes in the brain’s structure and neural processes

Although people initially choose to use and even abuse drugs or alcohol, once a person becomes addicted, changes in the brain remove a lot of ‘personal choice’ from the equation. Most people who become addicted to drugs or alcohol require professional substance abuse treatment to achieve remission and recovery.1

What’s the Difference between Substance Abuse and Addiction?

People with both substance abuse and addiction consume drugs or alcohol (or have problem behaviors, such as gambling) in ways that cause them harm, and people with substance abuse problems are at risk of developing an addiction.

But an addiction is more…

An addiction is a brain disease that is characterized by compulsive actions and a loss of control over use. People addicted to drugs or alcohol will continue to use (or drink) despite the harms obviously done by that use and will generally crave their substance of choice.

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Page last updated Aug 05, 2010

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