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What is Addiction?

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

by Jessica Hulsey


Addiction is a medical condition that affects the brain and changes a person's behavior.[1] The medical term for a drug or alcohol addiction is a substance use disorder (SUD).


People can develop an addiction to:

  • Alcohol;

  • Nicotine;

  • Opioids, such as heroin, fentanyl or prescription painkillers;

  • Marijuana;

  • Cocaine, methamphetamine and other stimulants;

  • PCP, LSD and other hallucinogens; and 

  • Sedatives, such as sleeping pills and/or benzodiazepines.


Addiction is characterized by a loss of control and continued use despite consequences, such as loss of a job, arrest, or other significant negative outcomes. It can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, or socioeconomic status.  


Addiction is a medical condition that affects the brain and changes behavior

1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020) Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. Retrieved from www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/preface



 

Jessica Hulsey is the founder and Executive Director of Addiction Policy Forum.

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