Types of Addiction

The many types of addiction include the abuse of substances such as alcohol or cocaine and behaviors like gambling. Addiction is associated with psychological and behavioral effects that occur in response to changes in the brain and is characterized by intense cravings and an inability to control substance use or behavior despite adverse life consequences.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry and is reflected in the individual pursuing reward and relief by substance use and other behaviors. The addiction is characterized by impairment in behavioral control, craving, inability to consistently abstain, and diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships.”

Qualities Shared by All Types of Addiction

When most people hear the word “addiction,” they think of those related to substances such as alcohol or narcotics. But addiction exists on a much broader spectrum than many realize. There are a number of behavioral addictions that aren’t commonly recognized by the general public including plastic surgery, pain-seeking, and shopping. Sometimes, even activities that are supposed to be beneficial, such as exercise, can have an adverse impact on a person’s life.

Addictions can take over a person’s life and rip families apart, cause emotional trauma, financial problems, and physical complications. Financial and legal problems can ensue due to job loss or destructive behavior. Addiction can create a sense of helplessness in which the person feels out of control, and this can further lead to severe depression and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

The elements associated with addiction are both physical and psychological in nature. Addicts use their addiction as a means of coping, relieving stress, or removing themselves from reality. All addictions are hallmarked by compulsions that can include chemical dependence or maladaptive patterns of behavior.

Addiction of any kind provides an addict with the feeling of reward during a psychological or physical high. Moreover, addictions that are left untreated tend to be progressive, becoming more intense over time.

Types of Addictions Related to Substances

Repeated use of drugs or alcohol over time produces tolerance in users, which is characterized by the need to consume the substance more frequently and/or in higher doses to generate the desired effects. Likewise, repeated use can also cause physiological dependence.

Dependence is a condition in which a person’s body and brain have grown accustomed to the substance’s presence such that they become unable to function normally without it. Also, dependence causes the person to experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, nausea, or tremors, if they discontinue use or sharply cut back dosages.

The following is a list of the substance use disorders identified in the DSM-5:

  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Cocaine
  • Cannabis
  • Hallucinogens
  • Inhalants
  • PCP or angel dust
  • Meth and other amphetamines
  • Heroin or prescription opioids
  • Hypnotics, anti-anxiety, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, and sedatives

Common Substance Addictions


Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant that works by increasing dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain associated with a significant risk of dependence, abuse, and addiction. Cocaine and crack cocaine are commonly used drugs in party and social scenes due to the positive effects they have on mood, as well as their ability to motivate and produce a quick boost of energy. Cocaine can be administered by snorting, smoking, or less commonly, injecting it intravenously.

Relative to other drugs, cocaine has a very short duration of action of usually no more than 30 minutes. To avoid a comedown, people often use cocaine in a binge-like pattern, which increases the risk of a person developing an addiction and other major mental and physical health complications.


Heroin use can rapidly produce addictive behaviors that result in a person losing just about everything they hold dear except for drug use itself. Unfortunately, although heroin receives a lot of negative reports regarding the tremendous risks involved, a large number of people continue to abuse it.

Certain opioids such as methadone were once readily employed to help heroin addicts abstain from heroin use. Potent painkillers such as oxycodone were also excessively dispensed to chronic pain patients who ultimately became hopelessly dependent. Decades into the epidemic, however, it has become increasingly difficult for people to obtain prescription opioids beyond a few days worth.

For those who regrettably become addicted, heroin continues to serve as an illegal alternative that is, in many areas, both more accessible and less expensive than other prescription opioids, such as oxycodone. Regardless of how heroin is administered, it delivers very potent and intense effects, and repeated use can rapidly result in a severe and dangerous addiction.

Prescription opioids are meant to provide pain relief, but they have a high potential for abuse and addiction. Indeed, people can become dependent on opioids even if they are used as directed, though this is less likely to occur than when they are misused. Those who abuse opioids also tend to use other substances, such as benzodiazepines, illicit drugs, and alcohol.


Methamphetamine (meth) is a potent stimulant that, although occasionally found in prescription form (Desoxyn), is most often mass-produced in drug cartel laboratories or made in small clandestine home labs. The latter was more common before the purchase of certain cough and cold medications that contained pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient in meth, became tightly controlled. As this was occurring, drug cartels took advantage of the lack of supply and the abundance of demand, so much of the meth now found in the U.S. was manufactured in and imported from Mexico.

Types of Addiction Related to Behaviors

NOTE: Recovery By The Sea treats all manners of addiction to substances as well as co-occurring mental health disorders. We do not, however, specialize in the treatment of behavioral or process addictions.

The following portion of the article is for informational purposes only.

Again, addiction is most often understood in regard to substance-related problems, but there are other types of addiction primarily based in behaviors. Like substance abuse, behavioral addictions are identified by a loss of control and the compulsive pursuit of an experience regardless of adverse consequences.

Addictive behaviors can be related to sex, the internet, or even adrenaline-inducing sports such as bungee jumping. Behavioral addiction is based on an activity or behavior, and most of the activities associated with substance addiction are comparable to those that occur with behavioral addictions.

Essentially, all addictions are used as a method of coping or escaping reality. Adverse effects can include changes in mood and less time spent engaging in hobbies and social activities, as well a strain on family life and finances. Like substance addiction, attempting to stop a behavioral addiction without treatment can result in withdrawal-like psychological symptoms or relapse.

Here are some examples of addictive behaviors:

  • Pornography
  • Internet or smart phone
  • Video gaming
  • Gambling
  • Plastic surgery
  • Anorexia and bulimia
  • Overeating
  • Seeking out pain
  • Sex
  • Shopping
  • Workaholism
  • Exercise

Treatment for Addiction to Substances

An addiction to drugs or alcohol can be a devastating condition that dramatically impacts the life of the person suffering as well as those close to them. Recovery By The Sea offers a comprehensive approach to the treatment of substance abuse that consists of evidence-based services vital to the recovery process. These include psychotherapy, counseling, group support, medication-assisted therapy, health and wellness programs, and aftercare planning.

If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, contact us today. Discover how we help people free themselves from the powerful grip of addiction and begin to experience the healthy and fulfilling lives they deserve!

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