I want to stop my addiction. But why can't I?
When people first start using a drug or participating in a potentially addictive activity, they believe that they will be able to control their behaviour and that they will not get addicted. But for some people, the positive feelings caused by the addictive activity or substance prove to be stronger than they expected.

Addiction creates a desire to repeat the activity or continue using the substance. After a while, a person will start to crave the substance or activity and will eventually lose control over it.

Although some people do manage to quit alone, addiction recovery usually requires a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses the social, physical, and emotional aspects of addiction. For more information, see "Addiction: definition and causes."

What should I do if I'm addicted?
The first thing you should do is see your doctor or an addiction counsellor. Your doctor or an addiction counsellor can determine if you are addicted, recommend appropriate treatment, or refer you to other health care professionals.

Although some people stop alone without any help, a comprehensive treatment program that includes counselling, support, and possibly medication could be the most successful long-term approach. Read more about addiction diagnosis.

Does addiction treatment work?
Whether addiction treatment works depends on many factors, but it especially depends upon how ready you are for recovery. Your chances of successful addiction treatment will be better if you are truly ready for a positive change.

Your definition of success may be different than it is for other people. For example, for some the goal may be total abstinence, but for others, simply reducing use of addictive substances or participation in an addictive activity is a good enough start. People who are not motivated to seek treatment can sometimes be motivated through an intervention.

How long should addiction treatment last?
The length of treatment depends on the type and severity of addiction. For most people, treatment will last for 3 months or longer. For others, addiction recovery is ongoing and may involve several relapses. The key is to find the type of treatment and support that works for you and to use it as long as you need to fully recover.

Someone I love is addicted, what should I do?
You can encourage your loved one to seek or stay in treatment, become involved in family therapy, and get support for yourself. Sometimes, there will be codependency issues that should be addressed. Read about codependency for more information.

I'm taking narcotic pain medication. Will I get addicted?
True addiction to opioid (narcotic) pain medications is not very common. However, physical dependence and tolerance are.

So what's the difference? Physical dependence occurs when your body adjusts over time to the medication and, when the mediation is stopped, withdrawal symptoms occur. Tolerance occurs when higher doses of a medication are needed to produce the same effect.

Addiction, on the other hand, involves compulsive, uncontrolled drug use despite its causing negative or harmful effects. Sometimes the difference between physical dependence and addiction can be hard to determine. But tolerance and physical dependence are not the same as addiction.

Why bother with methadone? Isn't it just as addictive?
Often used to treat narcotic addiction, methadone and buprenorphine take much longer to work and take longer for your body to eliminate. Because of this, the drugs do not produce the rapid high or sudden crash that other opioids like heroin would cause.

Taking methadone or buprenorphine helps people who are addicted to opioids reduce their need for the narcotic medication, allowing them to focus on other areas of their life, like their school, work, and family. Over time, the dose of methadone and buprenorphine can be gradually reduced.

What are the risk factors for addiction?
The exact cause of addiction is not known, but researches do know that addiction develops as a result of many factors. Some risk factors for addiction include:

  • drug or alcohol issues among family members or friends
  • low socioeconomic status
  • dysfunctional family environments
  • stress
  • sexual, physical, or emotional abuse
  • lack of sense of belonging
  • experiencing discrimination

Having these risk factors does not mean that you will develop an addiction - only that you are at a higher risk of developing one.

What are the signs of addiction?
Sometimes an addiction is hard to recognize - especially at first. But as the addiction progresses, changes often occur to alert you that something is up. Things to look for include:

  • behaviour changes that result in legal issues or that have a negative effect on family and friends
  • problems at home, school, or work
  • financial problems
  • physical changes such as weight loss and illness
  • emotional changes such as irritability, anger, depression, or anxiety

Keep in mind, though, that these signs do not necessarily mean that the person is addicted, but they do warn you that something is wrong and should be addressed.