What is Addiction

To Understand Addiction

To understand addiction, we need to understand what it is and how people become vulnerable to becoming addicted. Why are some people able to use without consequences while others get “hijacked” the first time? 

At how2connect.com, we focus on connected treatment, education, and providing the most up to date information and research into addiction and recovery. The first task for anyone looking for help and support, for oneself or a loved one, is to understand what addiction is.


Drug addiction is a complex, biological, psychological, and social disorder characterized by the out of control use of substances or dangerous behaviors despite the consequences. Any addiction has two main features: 

  1. The use of substances or engaging in behaviors that, despite the consequences, a person continues the behavior or drug use.
  2. The biological and psychological need for increased amounts of substances and behaviors over time, to achieve the desired effects.

What makes it so difficult for people to say, “I am an addict”? In our society, addiction is often misunderstood to be a matter of one’s “flaws” or one’s inability to experience enough pleasure to get and stay happy.

Addiction is a gradual process in which a person loses his/her sense of control over their drug use. Ultimately, the person cannot tolerate the years of hopelessness, isolation, and shame that come with any addiction. This pain underlying the addiction leads many millions of people toward drugs and alcohol to end their suffering. Connected treatment and support allow a person to see addiction as a symptom, a symptom of underlying pain.

Healing comes when people learn to identify the triggers, hopelessness, unresolved trauma, and unmet emotional needs that are being filled by addictive substances and behaviors.

Experts in the field of addiction explain that other factors contribute to substance addiction and addictive behaviors. Biological influences like our genes make some people more vulnerable to addiction. The environment in which a person grows up is also a factor. Economics, parenting, loss, peer pressure, trauma, stress, and childhood abuse all contribute to a person’s environmental vulnerability.

Families with addiction and/or mental health issues play a critical role in a person becoming drug or alcohol dependent. Coming from a family with addiction makes people more likely to become addicted themselves.[1] More than 60 percent of alcoholics have family histories of alcoholism.[2]

Another factor is mental illness in a family. Many addicted people have a history of depression and anxiety leading to their drug and alcohol use. The pain of untreated mental health issues like anxiety, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and others increase a person’s vulnerability to turning to addictive substances and behaviors.

The Science of Addiction

The American Society of Addiction Medicine recently adopted this definition of addiction: “Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social, and spiritual manifestations.”[3]

Addiction is usually defined as a physical and/or psychological dependence on substances that change a person’s brain chemistry.[4] Alcohol, opioids, and stimulants are drugs in this category. Other substances and behaviors also affect the brain in ways that make “just stopping” very difficult without treatment.

At how2connect.com, we believe that the most important factor to focus on is the person in pain underneath the addictive behaviors. With this focus, our team of licensed clinicians and addiction professionals form therapeutic partnerships with three goals in mind: ending the cycle of addiction, increasing connections, and relieving the pain underneath addictions of any kind.

Everyone’s story of how you got here will be different, but all addicts share the pain underneath.

Thank you for caring enough about yourself or a loved one to be here.

You are never alone and are always connected at how2connect.com.

[1] National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Drugs, Brains, and Behavior-The Science of Addiction” January 2007. http://www.nida.nih.gov/tib/soa.html

[2]“Addiction,” Home Box Office, Inc., Untied States, 2011, http://www.hbo.com/addiction/understanding_addiction/

[3]American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), Public Policy Statement on Addiction, Adopted April 12, 2011, http://www.asam.org/DefinitionofAddiction-LongVersion.html

[4]J Neurosci 21:9414-94, 2010.

Signs & Symptoms

Knowing that someone you love and care about is addicted or has a substance abuse problem is a difficult and painful weight to carry. 

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Addiction Test

Knowing when one has crossed the line into addiction is difficult. We might tell ourselves privately that we can stop any time. Or we begin to make deals and bargains with ourselves. How do we know if we have become addicted? Our loved ones tell us they are worried. We are becoming more and more dishonest with others and with ourselves. Things that were once important are no longer. We make promises but find it near impossible to keep them. If you think you may be suffering from addiction, you are in a healthy, sober, and connected place.  

Addiction Myths

People share many misunderstandings about addiction and recovery. Myths about addiction usually come from having wrong information to begin with. We can look to science for an explanation. Other factors that help us understand addiction are family systems and how people may be genetically predisposed to become addicts. No matter the reason, what is real and relevant is the pain underneath the addiction. Accurate information is valuable and the key to learning what addiction is and what it is not. 

Denial & Anger

Drug addiction is a complex biological, psychological, and social problem. It is characterized by the (out of control) use of substances or other self-injurious behaviors despite the consequences. Addiction also carries with it a certain set of behaviors that the addicted person may be unaware of. Family and friends are often the ones who first recognize these behaviors. Denial and anger make living with addiction possible for the addicted person but impossible for those who love and care about that person.

Models of A&R

Our Relational Model of care was designed with our client’s sobriety and wellness in mind. Together we form therapeutic relationships that are secure, safe, and honest. Our model of recovery has the foundational goal and desire to help reintroduce people to themselves in a more loving and connected way.