Lantana Recovery
A modern, community-based approach to addiction treatment for Men and Women in Charleston, SC

What is Addiction? | Definition, Signs, Treatment, and More

Jump to Section

Addiction is a heartbreaking reality that has been faced by countless individuals worldwide. It can cause serious physical and emotional damage to those affected as well as their loved ones. But what exactly is addiction? How do you know if someone is struggling with it? And what treatments are available? In this blog post, we’ll answer all these questions and more. 

What is Addiction? The Medical Definition:

Addiction is a complex issue that affects many people from all walks of life. According to medical science, it’s defined as a compulsive engagement with a drug or an activity despite its adverse consequences. 

Someone addicted may experience strong cravings and have difficulty controlling their use or behaviors over time. An addict will continue to use drugs or materials even if it threatens their jobs, relationships, and health. 

Drug addiction is one of the most dangerous forms of addiction as drug-seeking behavior can cause significant bodily harm, fatal drug overdose, and deteriorating physical condition. However, with the right treatment plan and support system, individuals can learn how to manage these compulsions and addiction can be overcome.

Types of Addiction

Addictions come in many shapes and sizes and at different levels of severity. However, normally it can be categorized into the following types:

Physical Addiction

Physical is a form of dependency where the body starts to rely on the presence of a particular substance to function normally. A person may be physically dependent on drugs (both illegal and prescription), alcohol, nicotine, and other substances. 

Physical addiction is one of the most extreme and damaging. Examples of substances that people can become physically addicted to include alcohol, opioids such as heroin, and even nicotine. 

Withdrawal symptoms for physical addictions often include difficulty sleeping, digestive problems, nausea, headaches, tremors, and more. In certain cases, medical detox may be needed in order to help reduce the symptoms associated with physical addiction and begin recovery treatment. 

Behavioral Addiction

Behavioral addiction is a mental disorder in which a person engages in an activity or behavior that causes harm to their life or the lives of those around them. This form of addiction is not caused by physical substances, but rather by psychological stimuli or an inability to stop behavior that has become compulsive and harmful. 

Common forms of behavioral addiction include gambling, internet addiction, sex addiction, shopping addiction, workaholism, and even food addictions like binge eating. People who suffer from these addictions experience similar symptoms as those with any other type of substance abuse, including feelings of guilt and shame and even physical withdrawal symptoms if they are unable to engage in the activity. 

Types of Drug Addiction 

Drug addiction is a powerful force that often takes over an individual’s life, affecting their physical and mental health, relationships, obligations, and financial security.  There are several types of drug addiction that can affect people. Some common types of drug addiction include:

  • Illegal substances such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines
  • Prescription drugs like pain pills, tranquilizers, and stimulants
  • Nicotine
  • Alcohol

Stages of Addiction:

Addiction is a complex condition that affects individuals in different ways. One key to understanding addiction is knowing that it progresses through four distinct stages. These stages are experimentation, social use, regular use, and dependency. 

It’s important to know the signs of each stage so that you can recognize if someone you care about is struggling with addiction. Let’s take a closer look at the four stages of addiction. 


The first stage of addiction begins with experimentation—trying a drug or alcohol for the first time out of curiosity or peer pressure. It may start off as something that you believe is harmless, such as having a drink at a party or trying marijuana once with friends. 

In this stage, there are often no harmful consequences as the user does not yet have an addiction. However, if a person continues experimenting with drugs and/or alcohol and crosses into the next stage of addiction, things begin to get more serious. 

Social or Regular Use

At this point in an individual’s journey through addiction, they have moved past experimenting and are now using drugs and/or alcohol regularly on a social basis. This could include drinking at parties every weekend or smoking marijuana with friends several times a week. 

During this stage of addiction, it is still possible that there are not any severe consequences yet; however, if left unchecked it will quickly lead to the next stage—problem or risk use.

Problem or Risk

At this point in an individual’s journey through addiction, they have moved beyond social use and into problem or risk use. 

The user has built up a tolerance to their substance(s) of choice and continues to increase their usage even though negative consequences may be starting to appear in their life such as declining grades at school, suspensions from work due to tardiness/absences, relationship issues, etc.

At this point, it becomes increasingly difficult for someone who is addicted to stop using without assistance from professionals due to physical dependence on the substance(s).  


This final stage of addiction involves full-on physical dependence on one (or multiple) substances where stopping usage completely would cause withdrawal symptoms such as nausea/vomiting/shakiness etc. 

The final stage is dependency where an individual has become physically and psychologically dependent on the substance/activity mentioned above in order to function normally day-to-day. 

During this stage, all thoughts revolve around getting and using substances at any cost necessary regardless of their consequences for one’s physical health, relationships with loved ones, work performance, etc.      

It is at this stage that an individual’s behavior becomes extremely dangerous — both for themselves as well as those around them. 

Misuse vs. Addiction

Misuse and addiction are two terms that are often used together but it is important to understand the difference between them. 

Misuse of a substance or activity usually takes place over a short period of time and is often done in response to a certain life circumstance or emotional state. The individual may cease participation in the substance or activity after a brief period of time, once desired outcomes have been achieved. 

Addiction, on the other hand, is characterized by an inability to control usage, despite the negative consequences that may arise and can take place over an extended period of time. This type of substance or activity use becomes essential for processing emotions and dealing with day-to-day stressors, regardless of its messy toll.

When someone is addicted to something, they struggle to control their usage and rely on outside help in order to overcome their addiction. 

In conclusion, misuse of substances can be harmful and should not be taken lightly whereas addiction needs professional help in order to be addressed properly in order to lead a healthy life.

Common Symptoms of Addiction

Addiction can be a difficult struggle to overcome. It is not only an individual’s problem, it affects family and friends alike. Recognizing the signs can be instrumental in helping those suffering from addiction find the help they need. 

Common symptoms of addiction include:

  • Inability to stop, despite harmful effects
  • Exaggerated cravings for the abused substance
  • Withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit
  • Preoccupation with obtaining drugs or alcohol
  • Impulsive behavior when under the influence
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Neglecting one’s responsibilities and personal appearance
  • Urge to isolate from friends and loved ones
  • Relationship issues

The most important approach when identifying an addiction is to take notice of these signs early on before they become unmanageable and ask for help.

How to Identify Addiction

Addiction can be an incredibly difficult thing to identify. This is especially true if someone is in denial or doing a good job of hiding their addiction. However, there are often tell-tale signs that point to the presence of an addiction. 

Mental Signs

These can include changes in mood or behavior such as erraticism, depression, and anxiety. 

Physical Signs

Physically, diet and sleep patterns may change drastically and skin appearance may become unusual. Others include red eyes, dilated pupils, or red spots near elbows (indicative of syringe use)

Behavioral Signs

There may also be neglect of responsibilities like home maintenance or paying bills as well as financial issues related to a drug problem and difficulties focusing on work tasks. 

Social Signs

Addiction also often presents with increased isolation from friends and family, neglect of hobbies and interests, regression into unproductive use of time with sleeping or sitting around doing nothing.

If any of these symptoms manifest themselves in a friend or family member it would be wise to start looking into resources available for helping them with their battle against addiction as soon as possible.

Factors that increase the risk of addiction 

Addiction is caused by a complex combination of factors, including childhood trauma, genetic predisposition, having parents with substance abuse issues, and early exposure to drugs or alcohol when young.

For instance, a person’s risk for addiction tends to increase if their parents exhibit addictive and risky behaviors; children are more likely to emulate the people who care for them most. Additionally, early exposure to and use of drugs or alcohol can significantly raise a person’s risk of developing an addiction later in life. 

Research has also shown that peer pressure plays a role in escalating the chances of falling into substance abuse issues. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to navigate these influences when young, which can make it harder for people to escape addiction later in life. 

It is therefore important for parents and mentors to encourage healthy behavior in kids and teach them the risks associated with drug use so they can make the best decision possible.

Addiction Treatments & Getting Professional Help

The first step towards recovery from addiction is recognizing that there is a problem and seeking help from professionals who specialize in addiction treatment. 

Treatments for addiction vary based on individual needs but typically include

  • Individual Counseling Sessions
  • Group Therapy Sessions
  • Support Group Meetings (Such As Alcoholics Anonymous)
  • Medication Management (If Needed)
  • Lifestyle Changes Such As Exercise And Nutrition Counseling
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (Cbt)

Treatment should be tailored specifically for each person’s unique needs in order to promote successful long-term recovery.  

Important Link for people suffering from addiction

If you’re feeling lost and unsure of where to start, there are organizations that can point you in the right direction and offer invaluable guidance on available treatments and support groups nationwide.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 

It is an invaluable resource for connecting individuals to treatment in the United States—its Treatment Locator tool helps those suffering from addiction find services near them. Plus, their information hub gives people access to anonymous online chats if they don’t know where else to turn for assistance. 

National Institute on Drug Abuse

Their website provides critical data about drug abuse and addiction, as well as up-to-date information about current treatments. 

Together, these resources can provide valuable support and guidance in helping those who need it most find the proper care necessary for a successful recovery.

Bottom Line: Overcoming Addiction 

Battling addiction is a difficult task that requires dedication and a strong support system to help overcome the issue. If you think you have an addiction—or if you suspect someone close to you does—seeking professional help can be an important first step toward recovery. 

There are many different types of treatments available for addiction depending on individual needs; speaking with an expert can help determine which type of treatment would be most effective for each person’s situation. 

With proper care and support from family and friends, anyone can achieve lasting sobriety and reclaim their life from addiction!


Warren Phillips

Warren is a Licensed Master Social Worker, who specializes in substance abuse and mental health treatment. Clinically, Warren has developed a therapeutic skillset that utilizes a strengths-based perspective, Twelve Step philosophies, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing.

Related Articles
Addiction Treatment
Contact Form
We’re here to help you or your loved one on their path to sobriety

Chat with us.

Reach out now and join our supportive community

Charleston South Carolina

Charleston South Carolina

Located on the historic peninsula of Charleston, South Carolina, Lantana Recovery takes a modern approach to Substance Use Disorder treatment, offering intensive clinical care while also immersing our clients in local Charleston culture.