Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress

Power of Addiction

Addiction involves intense cravings for a substance, loss of control over using that substance and continued use of the substance despite the many negative consequences that might be experienced.

Person sitting against bridge railing with head in hands

It can be hard to understand why someone would “choose” to forgo their responsibilities to seek a high. But addiction hijacks the brain. It does so first by chemically changing how someone experiences pleasure and by interfering with judgment and decision-making. In the most chronic form of the disease, addiction can cause a person to stop caring about their own or other’s well-being or survival. Addiction is not a moral flaw or sign of weakness, but a brain disease.

The progression from drug misuse to addiction looks different for everyone, but a common pathway includes the following stages:

  • Experimentation – Individual uses substance on occasion and feels in control of use.
  • Routine use – Individual engages in regular use. Life is structured around using the substance and dedicating resources to it. The individual is in denial about use and masks the consequences of their behavior.
  • Dependence or addiction – Individual feels powerless to resist drugs, either because they are seeking the effects of the substance or avoiding the effects of withdrawal.

One in seven people are estimated to develop a substance use disorder at some point in their lives.

The changes made by addiction in the brain are real and can last for a long time, making recovery challenging and relapse common. The good news is that there is hope. It is possible to achieve recovery from substance use disorder. Seeking care from professional addiction treatment providers who will develop personalized treatment plans designed to support their patients and carry them into recovery provides the best chance for success.


Last modified on Friday, 3 April 2020 10:59