Addiction is defined as the continued use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs (ATOD) despite negative consequences, characterized by compulsive use, loss of control over use, increasing tolerance to the substance, and the presence of withdrawal symptoms when the substance is stopped.
While most health professionals believe that addiction is a disease, as it is chronic and worsens over time without treatment, there are other ways professionals view alcohol and other drug addiction. These include moral, temperance, psychological or characterological, and social education models.
Causes of death related to addiction range from general physical decline due to substance use to overdose to life-threatening diseases like HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and tuberculosis, which are not uncommon among addicted populations.
Many believe that addiction is incurable, but can be brought into remission through abstinence and a rigorous recovery program that addresses the addicted person's physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
Addiction is a complex problem, affecting not only the physical and mental health of individuals, but also their families and social environment. While there is no way to determind exatly why someone becomes addicted, these factors may be involved:
Treatment for addiction begins with a drug and alcohol evaluation, which is administered by a Certified Addictions Counselor (CAC), a therapist who specializes in addiction. The CAC will recommend a level of care based on the outcome of the evaluation. The levels of care include:
The goal of drug and alcohol treatment, no matter what the level of care, is to provide the tools for changing behaviors and habits and for the client to grow mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Overcoming addiction can seem impossible to the client whose drug or alcohol use is out of control, but help is available and treatment works.
Campaign to Stop Opiate Abuse- Designed to educate Pennsylvanians about the risks of prescription painkiller and heroin use and how to access help.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism- A catalog of publications (most are free), databases and research news, along with other online services, are also available. The NIAAA frequently asked questions page provides information to better understand the health consequences of alcohol abuse and dependence (alcoholism).
Pennsylvania Driving Under the Influence Association
The Pennsylvania Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Association is a professional organization which is working to address the DUI problem in all of its many stages -- from prevention to enforcement up to, and including, adjudication and rehabilitation. This link to their website highlights the effects of alcohol and other drugs on the human body.
The Mayo Clinic
The Mayo Clinic’s mission is to empower people to manage their health by providing useful and up-to-date information and tools that reflect the expertise and standard of excellence of the Mayo Clinic.
National Clearinghouse for Drug & Alcohol Information
Tons of information from the federal government on the treatment and prevention of substance abuse; downloads, brochures, fact sheets, reports, and videos are available to the public. Most of it is free and available in quantity.
National Institute on Drug Abuse
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A catalog of publications (most are free), databases and research news, along with other online services, are also available.