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What is an Addiction?: Welcome

Before you break out of prison, you must realize you are locked up


What is an Addiction?: Famous Quote

What Are Signs of Addiction?

An addiction has two basic qualities:

  1. You sometimes use more than you would like to use. For example, one drink leads to more drinks, or one line of cocaine leads to more.

  2. You continue to use despite negative consequences. For example, you continue to drink even though it has hurt your relationships.

An addiction must meet at least 3 of the following criteria. This is based on the criteria of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV) and World Health Organization (ICD-10).[1]

  • Tolerance. Do you use more alcohol or drugs over time?

  • Withdrawal. Have you experienced physical or emotional withdrawal when you have stopped using? Have you experienced anxiety, irritability, shakes, sweats, nausea, or vomiting? Emotional withdrawal is just as significant as physical withdrawal.

  • Limited control. Do you sometimes drink or use drugs more than you would like? Do you sometimes drink to get drunk? Does one drink lead to more drinks sometimes? Do you ever regret how much you used the day before?

  • Negative consequences. Have you continued to use even though there have been negative consequences to your mood, self-esteem, health, job, or family?

  • Neglected or postponed activities. Have you ever put off or reduced social, recreational, work, or household activities because of your use?

  • Significant time or energy spent. Have you spent a significant amount of time obtaining, using, concealing, planning, or recovering from your use? Have you spent a lot of time thinking about using? Have you ever concealed or minimized your use? Have you ever thought of schemes to avoid getting caught?

  • Desire to cut down. Have you sometimes thought about cutting down or controlling your use? Have you ever made unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control your use?

For more information about what constitutes a serving size of alcohol and how much is considered to be moderate or excessive drinking follow the link below:

What is an Addiction?: Welcome


Alcoholism and drug addictions are generally associated with serious physical changes and symptoms, as well as consequences which become increasingly difficult to hide, such as losing a job or getting a DUI.  However, there are some other behavioral addictions which, because of their nature, can go unnoticed for years.  This is particularly true of behaviors which are socially normal.  In America, the trend towards more liberal attitudes and behaviors has led to gambling becoming a more acceptable behavior. In a 2018 Gallup Pole, 69% of Americans say gambling is morally acceptable, which is up from 65% last year and up from a low of 58% in 2009.  This change in social attitudes might explain the increase in problem gambling. 1% of American adults can be classified as having a gambling disorder and another 2% to 3% can be considered problem gamblers (Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey.)  New Jersey soars to double the national average. 6.3 % of New Jersey’s population has a gambling problem.

For more information about problem gambling follow the link below.

What is an Addiction?: Welcome

Do Addictions Get Worse?

There are different stages of addictions. 

The early stage is the functioning individual with addiction. They still have a job and their relationships are intact, but their life is suffering because of their addiction. That is the most common scenario. You don't have to suffer major losses to have an addiction.

The late stage of addiction is the non-functioning addict. They've lost their job and have to use every day. It's what people think addiction is like, but that stereotype is rare.

The consequences of addiction get worse over time. Addiction is a progressive disease. It's never easy to quit. But if you've already suffered negative consequences and don't want them to get worse, there's never a better time to quit than now.

To see the progression of alcoholism, follow this link:

What is an Addiction?: Welcome

What Causes An Addiction?

Family History

Genetics explains 50 percent of whether an individual will develop an addiction. The children of addicts are 8 times more likely to develop an addiction*. 

Poor Coping Skills for Stress

Stress is an important risk factor in addiction. It is especially important in the transition from moderate drug use to dependent drug abuse.  A vicious cycle can be created because addiction can lead to creating the types of stress which you were trying to escape from in the first place.

Negative Thinking

All the different types of negative thinking make you feel stressed, uncomfortable, irritable, and discontent.  When you are locked into these thoughts patterns you are more likely to develop unhealthy coping methods.

Underlying Anxiety or Depression

Approximately 15 to 30 percent of people with addiction also suffer from underlying depression.  The combination is sometimes called a dual diagnosis. Anxiety and depression can lead to addiction. Addiction can also cause anxiety and depression. People who have a dual diagnosis often use drugs and alcohol to escape the feelings of anxiety and depression. They have a repeating pattern of staying sober for a while and then relapsing when the feelings become overwhelming and they try to escape them.

*Merikangas, K. R., Stolar, M., Stevens, D. E., Goulet, J., et al., Familial transmission of substance use disorders. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 1998. 55(11): p. 973-9.

What is an Addiction?: About Therapy

How Common is Addiction?

Approximately 10% of any population is addicted to drugs or alcohol. Addiction is more common than diabetes, which occurs in approximately 7% of the population.

Addiction crosses all socio-economic boundaries. 10% of teachers, 10% of plumbers, and 10% of CEOs have an addiction.

The terms alcohol addiction, alcoholism, and dependence are all equivalent. Different terms have been used over time in an attempt to overcome the stigma of addiction.

What is an Addiction?: About Therapy

Is there a Gene for Addiction?

We all have the genetic predisposition for addiction because there is an evolutionary advantage to that. When an animal eats a certain food that it likes, there is an advantage to associating pleasure with that food so that the animal will look for that food in the future. In other words the potential for addiction is hardwired into our brain. Everyone has eaten too much of their favorite food even though they knew it wasn't good for them.

Although everyone has the potential for addiction, some people are more predisposed to addiction than others. Some people drink alcoholically from the beginning. Other people start out as a moderate drinker and then become alcoholics later on. How does that happen?

Repeatedly abusing drugs or alcohol permanently rewires your brain. If you start out with a low genetic predisposition for addiction, you can still end up with an addiction. If you repeatedly abuse drugs or alcohol because of poor coping skills, then you'll permanently rewire your brain. Every time you abuse alcohol, you'll strengthen the wiring associated with drinking, and you'll chase that buzz even more. The more you chase the effect of alcohol, the greater your chance of eventually developing an addiction.

Your genes are not your destiny. The 50% of addiction that is caused by poor coping skills is where you can make a difference. Lots of people have come from addicted families but managed to overcome their family history and live happy lives. You can use this opportunity to change your life.

What is an Addiction?: Welcome

What Are the Consequences of Addiction?

People only stop using drugs and alcohol when they have suffered enough negative consequences. When you've suffered enough pain and enough regret you are ready to stop.

You are ready to stop when the two sides of addiction collide. On the one hand, addiction feels so good that you want to use more. On the other hand, addiction leads to negative consequences. After a while, something has got to give. You don't have to hit rock bottom. The purpose of websites like this is to show you the potential negative consequences of addiction so that you will be ready to quit before you've lost everything. You can imagine what it would be like to hit rock bottom. And that can help motivate you.

The most important consequences of addiction are social, emotional, and psychological. People usually think of the physical and economic consequences of addiction. "I don't have a serious addiction because my health is fine, and I haven't lost my job." But those are very late stage consequences.

As far as work is concerned that's usually the last thing to suffer. You need your work in order to pay your bills, so that you can continue your addiction. When your work begins to suffer, you've slipped from being a functioning addict to a non-functioning addict.

The damage addiction does to your relationships and self-esteem is far deeper and takes longer to repair. You've hurt friends and family. You've disappointed yourself. You've traded important things in your life so that you could make more time to use. You've lived a double life. You've seen the hurt in your family's eyes, and the disappointment in your children's faces. Those are the consequences that can motivate you to begin recovery.

What is an Addiction?: Welcome

What About the Cost? - Here Are Just a Few


  •  If you drink a cheap $5 6-pack of beer every day, that’s $150 each month. That’s almost $1,000 in 6 months to support this habit

  • Excessive drinking cost the US 249 billion dollars in 2010.  In New Jersey alone, the cost of excessive alcohol consumption was over 6 billion dollars (CDC, 2010)

  • In the United States, an average of six people die every day from alcohol poisoning. Click on this link to hear a podcast based on the January 2015 CDC Vital Signs report

  • Excessive alcohol use is responsible for about 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost in the United States each year (CDC 2013).  Binge drinking (five or more drinks per occasion for men or four or more drinks per occasion for women) is responsible for more than half the deaths

  • Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes—that's one person every 48 minutes in 2017. These deaths have fallen by a third in the last three decades; however, drunk-driving crashes claim more than 10,000 lives per year (CDC)


  • Switch out the $5 beer to a more expensive drug like, cocaine or heroin and the cost skyrockets. Some people can easily spend more than $10,000 each year to support their addiction

  • If you’re hooked on heroin, you’ll spend an average of $150 a day to support your habit. That’s nearly $55,000 per year

  • Each year, Americans spend nearly $100 billion on illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. These figures do not even account for the billions of dollars that are spent on prescription drugs each year—about $374 billion according to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics—or the amount spent on legal drugs such as tobacco and alcohol

  • 70,237 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in 2017

  • Opioids—mainly synthetic opioids (other than methadone)—are currently the main driver of drug overdose deaths. Opioids were involved in 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017 (67.8% of all drug overdose deaths)

  • Every day in America, approximately 50 people die from overdosing on prescription painkillers. Over the course of a year, that number grows to 18,250—which is enough to fill every seat at Madison Square Garden (CDC)


  • The average U.S. Consummer spends $5,400 annually on impulse buys, according to a new survey by The study of 2,000 consumers shows they make three of those purchases a week, adding up to $450 a month and $5,400 per year

  • Overall, compulsive betting behavior costs about 6 billion dollars per year for U.S. economics. (2.6% or almost 10 million people) has an addiction problem because of gambling 

  • Every year, PornHub (the largest porn website in the world) publishes insightful statistics. In 2016, they had 23 billion visits to their site and collectively, 4.6 billion hours 

  • Every Day: 37 pornographic videos are created in the United States; 2.5 billion emails containing porn are sent or received; 68 million search queries related to pornography- 25% of total searches- are generated; and 116,000 queries related to child pornography are received (Webroot)

  • It is estimated that  6-8%, or 14.7-19.6 million adults have sex addictions. More people have sexual addictions in America than the number who abuse prescription drugs (19 million)

  • Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder, afflicting 3.5% of women and 2.0% of men in the U.S.  This translates to 4.2 million women and 2.3 million men in the U.S with BED.

What is an Addiction?: Welcome

Thank you to Dr. Melemis for giving us permission to use this video and material from his website.

For a transcript of this video follow the link below:

What is an Addiction?: Famous Quote
What is an Addiction?: Services
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