What is addiction?

Woman looking at husband, both have a sad look in their eyes

A Substance Use Disorder is a troubling pattern of alcohol or drug misuse, leading to negative consequences. It starts with experimentation and “recreational” use. From there, it grows into a substance abuse problem. Left untreated, it can escalate into addiction.

Understanding Substance Use Disorders

The symptoms associated with a substance use disorder fall into four major groupings: impaired control, social impairment, risky use, and pharmacological criteria (i.e., tolerance and withdrawal).

To identify a substance use disorder, there should be some combination of the following symptoms occurring within a 12-month period.

The more symptoms that are present, the more severe the disorder:

  • The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
  • There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful effort to cut down or control use of the substance.
  • A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance, use the substance, or recover from its effects.
  • Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use the substance.
  • Recurrent use of the substance resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.
  • Continued use of the substance despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of its use.
  • Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of use of the substance.
  • Recurrent use of the substance in situations in which it is physically hazardous.
  • Use of the substance is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance.
  • Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:
  • A need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect.
  • A markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance.
  • Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:
  • The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for that substance (as specified in the DSM-5 for each substance).
  • The substance (or a closely related substance) is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.


Material from National Institute of Drug Abuse; The Science of Drug Abuse and Addiction: The Basics

How do drugs work in the brain to produce pleasure?

Nearly all addictive drugs directly or indirectly target the brain’s reward system by flooding the circuit with dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, cognition, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. The overstimulation of this system, which rewards our natural behaviors, produces the euphoric effects sought by people who use drugs and teaches them to repeat the behavior.

Is drug abuse a voluntary behavior?

The initial decision to take drugs is mostly voluntary. However, when addiction takes over, a person’s ability to exert self-control can become seriously impaired. Brain-imaging studies from people addicted to drugs show physical changes in areas of the brain that are critical for judgment, decision-making, learning, memory, and behavior control. Scientists believe that these changes alter the way the brain works and may help explain the compulsive and destructive behaviors of an addicted person.

Who is rehab for?

Rehab, or residential treatment, is for people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol and who are experiencing some of the following issues as a result of their substance misuse:

  • Experiencing strife with their partner and/or family
  • Finding themselves unable to provide emotional or financial support for their families
  • Missing work, in danger of losing their jobs, or having lost a successful career
  • Considering treatment again after previous treatment episodes

If this describes you or a loved one, please reach out. It takes courage to ask for help, and we’ll meet you where you are. No judgement and no pressure. Take a step by requesting a call.

What is your approach to recovery?

At Ten16, we believe that recovery is possible for everyone. It won’t be easy, but it IS possible! We take a holistic approach to recovery that treats all aspect of health: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. We believe that lasting recovery means learning to live substance-free. If that feels scary or even impossible, we understand. We’ll meet you where you are and help you take the next right step. Learn more about our approach.