Drug and alcohol addiction has two basic tenets. The first is an individual sometimes uses more than is desired and the second is that an individual may continue using in spite of negative consequences. People who use drugs or alcohol to escape, relax or give a reward may believe it is not possible to cope without drugs. The greatest damage is to a person’s self-esteem.

Medical Definitions

Some of the medical definitions of addiction are good to know and understand. The definitions are based on criteria of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV) and World Health Organization (WHO).

Tolerance: does the individual use more alcohol or drugs over time to feel the same effect?

Withdrawal: has the person experienced physical or emotional withdrawal when a person stops using drugs. Some symptoms may include anxiety, irritability, shakes, sweats, nausea or vomiting. Emotional withdrawal is also a concern along with physical withdrawal.

Limited control: does the person drink or use drugs more than desired or does one drink lead to several more? Is there regret surrounding use of alcohol or drugs?

Negative consequences: has a person continued to use in spite of negative consequences to self-esteem, job, health, life, family and other areas.

Prevalence of Use

Approximately 10% of any population struggles with addiction to drugs or alcohol. Addiction is more common than diabetes which occurs in approximately 7% of the population. Addiction crosses all socio-economic boundaries. It is becoming more prevalent across the spectrum of American households every day.


An addictive substance feels good because it stimulates the pleasure center of the brain through neurotransmitters such as dopamine and GABA. if a genetic predisposition exists, addictive substances may feel good enough to want to chase after. Genetic predispositions feel good enough that a person may be willing to suffer negative consequences to get more and feel high.

Cost and Consequences

Addictive substances stimulate the pleasure center of the brain but the cost and consequences can last longer than the high a person seeks. At least twice as many people die from alcoholism in the US every year as die from motor vehicle accidents. People only really stop using drugs or alcohol once negative consequences are felt. When enough suffering has happened, a person may be ready to stop. When addiction has little to no consequences it is easy to overlook the issue. A person does not have to hit rock bottom to feel the negative effects. Addiction damages relationships and self-esteem which take a long time to repair. Focusing on the negative effects and finding help is the first step to motivate a person to seek recovery.


Hired Power provides supportive services to individuals with addiction. If you need help, call us at 800-910-9299 to find out how we can help you recover.

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