Addiction overview

1. Overcoming addiction is not just about willpower

Overcoming addiction means overcoming both craving and compulsion, extremely difficult forces to contend with. And it's not simply about willpower. Addictions are complex issues influenced by multiple factors, including your genetics, your childhood experiences, stress, and brain function. For more information, read "Addiction: definition and causes."

2. Addiction is not an indication of underlying character disorder.

With an addiction, a person's personality and behaviour can drastically change. Fortunately, these changes are most often the result of – and not the cause of – the addiction. With good treatment, the personality and behavioural changes will improve and most likely return to normal.

3. Treating underlying mental health issues will not make an addiction go away.

20% of people with mental health illnesses, such as depression or anxiety, also have a substance abuse problem. Most of the time, these two issues needs to be addressed simultaneously, meaning that “fixing” one does not make the other disappear.

4. You don't have to hit rock bottom before you get help with an addiction.

Although people with addictions may need to experience sufficient discomfort from their addiction before they will be motivated enough to seek help, there are many ways that the process of recovery can be facilitated. Loved ones and friends can stop covering up for, cleaning up after, and making excuses for the addicted person. An intervention by family or friends that helps an addicted person see and understand all of the consequences of their addiction (legal, professional, interpersonal) is another possible way to get someone to start treatment.

5. There is no quick fix for addiction.

For complex problems, there is a never a quick and easy solution. Since addictions are complex and involve physical, emotional, and socials issues, they require a treatment plan that addresses the all of these areas. Although medication may prove to be a helpful part of the treatment plan, it will not provide all that is necessary for successful recovery. Read more about addiction recovery.

6. You can recover from addiction.

Some people are able to quit on their own, but treatment programs that address the physical, emotional, and social aspects of addiction may prove to be more successful in the long run. You will need to learn about your addiction, coping skills, and other strategies to manage cravings. But with commitment, patience, and support, you can recover from your addiction, or at least lessen the impact it has on your life.

7. If you are addicted, you are not alone.

Whether it's gambling, food, drugs, or alcohol, addiction is a common issue for people from all walks of life. For example, worldwide there are over 27 million people who have problems with drug use. Support groups for people trying to recover from an addiction similar to yours can be a tremendous source of support, encouragement, and resources. For a support group in your area, check out our support group resources, or ask your doctor or health care professional about support groups in your area.

8. You can protect yourself against addiction.

There are many factors that contribute to the development of addiction, but researchers have also identified other factors that help protect children and teens from developing addictions. These include:

  • having a good adult role model such as a parent or teacher
  • having a strong and open relationship with family
  • having a good relationship with the school and community
  • having plans for the future
  • being involved in sports and other activities

Of course, having any or all of these in place will not guarantee that an addiction will not occur, but they are among the factors that can reduce the risk of addiction.

9. You can help someone with an addiction.

Many people with an addiction, and many family members of people with addictions, are embarrassed about the addiction and don't want to talk about it. But talking about addiction is one of the best things to do. How you talk to someone with an addiction will affect the response you get:

  • Let the person know you are concerned and are there to talk and listen.
  • Try to provide information about the addiction and encourage the person to get help.
  • Help the person problem-solve and develop skills to deal with tempting situations.
  • Try not to argue with, blame, or judge the person with the addiction, as this will only distance them.

10. It can be hard to identify the signs of addiction.

The signs of addiction can be hard to identify. However, if you are addicted, you will likely:

  • crave the substance or activity
  • lose control of how much and how often you use the substance or activity
  • continue to use the substance or do the activity even though it is causing problems in your life
  • have a compulsion to use the substance or do the activity

If you think you might have an addiction, talk to your doctor or to an addiction counsellor for a thorough assessment.

Written and reviewed by the MediResource Clinical Team