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Addiction

Addiction is a strong mental and physical dependence on, most commonly, a drug or other substance. Some substances that can lead to addiction are alcohol, illegal drugs, some prescription medicines, inhalants (such as spray paint), and nicotine.

A person with an addiction usually has three or more of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Needing more and more of the drug or substance to have the same effect, or getting less effect from the same amount of the drug or substance over time (tolerance)
  • Being unable to stop using the drug or substance without having uncomfortable symptoms (withdrawal symptoms)
  • Taking the drug or substance in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than was intended
  • Being unable to cut down or control use of the drug or substance or having the persistent desire to do so
  • Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from the effects of the drug or substance
  • Not being able to meet obligations to family, job, or other activities because of drug or substance use
  • Continuing to use the drug or substance even though it is physically or psychologically harming the person

Most people with addictions also have strong cravings for the drug or substance.

The tendency to have addiction problems can be passed from parents to their children (inherited). This tendency often is accompanied by mental health problems, such as depression.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter Monti, PhD - Alcohol and Addiction
Current as of March 12, 2014

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.