What Does it Mean to Have an Addiction? in Mind

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An addiction is when a person has lost control over doing, taking or using something.

It's possible to become addicted to anything, but some addictions are more damaging than others.

What are addictions?

A person who is addicted to something can't control how they use it, or need it to get through every day life.

Addictions can be to substances, like alcohol, tobacco or other drugs, or to behaviours, like gambling or extreme exercise.

Addictions are a problem when they start to affect health in a bad way or interfere with a person's ability to lead a normal life, as well as the people around them. 

Why do addictions happen?

A person might start to take a drug or engage in an activity because it's enjoyable and not have a problem with it at first.

They might do it because they feel it helps them relax or to cope with stress by covering up bad feelings.

As time goes by, the person might find they need to do or take more of a thing to get the same effect. They can soon feel they need to take or do the thing to feel 'normal'.

What are physical addictions?

Some substances make changes to our bodies so that, over time, our bodies really do 'need' the substance to work normally. If they don't get enough of it, the person gets cravings or 'withdrawal'.

However, even if they do get the substance they are addicted to, it may still be damaging  their health in other ways. Addiction often damages other areas of their lives like money, their relationships, studies and career.

Are you living with someone with an addiction?

Living with or just being around people who have problems with alcohol, drugs or other addictions can be hard.

It can be especially hard on you if you have to cope with this alone.

it's important that you talk to someone about what's happening and get support where you can.

If you can't speak to a trusted friend, teacher or relative, call Childline free at any time on 0800 1111.

Help for addictions

Help, support and advice is available for people with addictions to help them get better.

Lots of people turn to their doctor first, and this can be a good place to start.

Support groups can help people work through the problems around their substance abuse or behaviour.

Psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses and doctors can also help, and there are lots of helplines, websites to turn to.

Check out our list of some of the services  that can you help you with drinking, drugs or smoking