Addiction is a somewhat vague term for a compulsion to repeat a destructive behavior. Many drugs (especially recreational drugs), for example, cause a set of medical conditions that include stimulating desire for more of the drug, increasing tolerance of higher doses, and pain or discomfort upon terminating use (called withdrawal). The term is also used for the purely psychological phenomenon of compulsive destructive behavior such as gambling.
Common substance addictions include:
- Heroin addiction
- Nicotine addiction
- Cocaine addiction (Existence of cocaine addiction is questionable. Withdrawal of cocaine is very different from withdrawal from above addictions)
Behavioural addictions include:
There is some overlap between behavioural and substance addictions, e.g. a nicotinist becoming calmer through fiddling with her smoking paraphernalia even without smoking. There is some debate over whether some eating disorders are addictions.
The medical establishment makes a distinction between physical and psychological addictions. Physical addictions lead to physical symptoms upon withdrawal. Psychological addictions lead to psychological symptoms upon withdrawal. The distinction should not be taken to mean that psychological addictions are easier to break than physical ones. Breaking any addiction is very hard, or it wouldn't be an addiction.
The speed with which a given individual becomes addicted to a substance varies with the substance, the frequency of ingestion and individual characteristics. Some alcoholics for instance say that they drank in an alcoholic way from the moment they felt the first intoxication while most people can drink socially without ever becoming addicted. Nicotine is considered by many to be the most addictive substance of all.
The word addiction is some times used jokingly to refer to something a person has a passion for. Such "addicts" include:
To become physiologically or psychologically dependent on a habit-forming substance.
- Caffeine (only psychological addiction, but because it deregulates blood presure some physical symptoms of withdrawal can occur)
- Cocaine (probably only psychological addiction)
- Methamphetamine (probably only psychological addiction)