The Definitive Guide to Types of Addiction and How They’re Treated

Addiction is a complex, multi-faceted disease that can often plague sufferers their entire lives. Addiction is an issue of the brain and the body. Many addictions affect both the physiological and the psychological, meaning that your body and your mind can become addicted to something. Not only can addiction wreak havoc on our bodies, but it also does severe damage to relationships, families, workplaces, and communities.

Types of Addiction and Treatments

What is considered an addiction, and how does someone know they have one?

Many people may jokingly state that they are “addicted” to something. However, real addiction is a chronic, damaging experience often related to substances like alcohol and drugs. There are key signs that medical professionals and addiction specialists use to gauge whether someone is developing or has developed an addiction.


Addiction has two things that define it:

  • You use more than you want to use
  • You use despite the consequences

For example, let’s say you go out for drinks with friends on a work night. You know that you need to work in the morning and your boss has warned you that if you’re late again, you’ll be fired. Moreover, you find yourself ordering another drink and another drink until you’re drunk and will be late for work.


The symptoms of addiction

According to the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV) and the World Health Organization (ICD-10), for something to qualify as an addiction, it must meet at least three of the following criteria:

  • Tolerance – do you find you need more and more of a particular substance to achieve the same results?
  • Withdrawal – When you attempt to stop using the substance, do you find that you experience adverse physical or emotional side effects? Do you start to experience anxiety, shakes, nausea, or irritability?
  • Less control – Do you find that you use more drugs or drink more than you would like to? Alternatively, do you sometimes seek out drugs or alcohol to escape?
  • Ignoring negative consequences – Have you continued to use substances even though you’ve experienced negative consequences that have affected your mood, family, job, or friendships?
  • Neglected things you liked to do – Have you found yourself putting off things you’d like to do because of your substance use?
  • Concealment – Do you make an effort to hide your substance use? Alternatively, you are recovering from another bout? Do you make a significant effort to avoid getting caught?
  • Wanting to cut down – Have you found yourself wanting to cut down? Have you tried to and failed?


How different types of addictions are treated

There is no single treatment that is effective for everyone. Drug addiction treatment is usually a combination of behavioral counseling, medication, withdrawal treatment, treatment for any contributing mental health issues, and long-term monitoring to prevent relapse. Generally, if someone is suffering from one of the following substance issues, it will be treated as such:



Depending on the state of your alcohol addiction, detox may be what’s required to get someone on the path to recovery. Detox is necessary if someone attempts to stop drinking “cold turkey” and finds themselves experiencing tremors, hallucinations, and seizures. These physical manifestations can be particularly bad with alcohol because alcohol can cause physical dependence, as well as psychological dependence.

Becoming physically dependent on a substance means that your body has formed a physiological dependence on alcohol. These adaptations in the central nervous system are caused by chronic abuse of alcohol and can lead to lethal withdrawal symptoms is a heavy drinker is abruptly cut off from drinking.

This is why detox can help someone suffering from alcohol addiction get through the initial withdrawal and onto the path to recovery.

From there, treatment for alcohol abuse will often center on behavioral therapies, medications, and support groups. Sometimes, it’s recommended that sufferers spend time at an in-patient facility for substance abuse treatment to help build the structure and processes they will need to refrain from alcohol abuse once back in their day-to-day lives. Alcohol can be particularly challenging for people to kick due to its ubiquitous presence in our lives and ready availability.

Read more about Alcohol Abuse & Addiction Rehab Treatments


Nicotine dependence is something most people have had experience with. Smoking has been an accepted part of society for a very long time, which means almost everyone has a friend or family member who is a smoker and doesn’t want to be.

Quitting smoking requires an iron will but is also much helped by medications and counseling. For medication, the combination of nicotine replacement therapy coupled with non-nicotine medicines has proven to be quite useful. Several forms of nicotine replacement therapy may work for you, which is why it’s essential to discuss the options and side effects with your doctor.

Non-nicotine medications are used to increase the dopamine and norepinephrine boost delivered by nicotine or to act on the nicotine receptors in the brain that trigger withdrawal.

Counselling supports groups, and other programs help people recovering from nicotine addiction circumvent urges to smoke by being able to connect with addictions counselors or other people going through the same experience.

In combination, these treatment programs are quite effective. However, nicotine is still quite challenging to quit, and users may relapse and need to start their treatment program over again.


Opioid addiction has grown into an epidemic in North America. Many opiate addicts initially become addicted while using prescription painkillers, such as Oxycodone, Morphine, Codeine, or Fentanyl. Once access to the prescription is no longer available, users begin to seek out illegal sources of the drug.

Opioids are a powerful drug used to treat pain. When used as prescribed, opioids can be incredibly beneficial and ease suffering and help patients regain their lives. However, when misused, they can quickly lead to debilitating addictions that are both physically and psychologically addictive, making them doubly hard to quit.

When a person is diagnosed as having an opioid addiction, there are two main ways to treat it:

  • opioid agonist therapies
  • and addiction treatment counseling.

Opioid agonist therapies use medications such as methadone or buprenorphine to slowly wean users off the stronger, unregulated doses of things like synthetic fentanyl or heroin. These medications bind to the opioid receptors, rendering the drugs less effective over time. This is also key to making sure users don’t go into withdrawal, whose severe side effects can cause people to relapse to find relief.

While opioid users have been shown to benefit significantly from agonist therapy, it’s also essential that they go to addiction treatment counseling. Counseling addresses the underlying mental health or trauma issues that have led many people to their addictions. The use of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and family counseling can help users regain control and prevent a relapse. Counseling helps provide addiction sufferers with the means to cope with stressors and triggers that may lead to a relapse.


Benzodiazepines, also known as “benzos,” are a class of mood-regulating drugs such as Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium, which are prescribed to people suffering from anxiety and stress.

Addiction to benzodiazepines is often slow and happens over time. Frequently, users will only realize that they can’t function normally without the drug when it’s too late. Benzodiazepines have a strong impact on the brain’s chemical makeup, which makes them extremely dangerous and can cause lethal withdrawal symptoms if medical professionals don’t carefully monitor users. Because of this deadly risk, people addicted to benzodiazepines are often placed in detox to go through the unpleasant effects of withdrawal safely.

Users are gradually weaned off the drug and sometimes given combination drug therapies to help them stay clean. Behavioral counseling is also vital in recovery from benzodiazepine addiction, as in social support and help in finding housing, employment, and a stable routine.

In summary…

No matter the drug or substance that a person is struggling to kick, their chances of long-term success are always higher with the help of professionals. Addictions counselors, doctors, and other professionals can help guide sufferers through not only the physical side effects of fighting addiction but the psychological effects as well.

Oftentimes, people fail to see the underlying psychological issues that may have caused or exacerbated a drug or substance issue. By partnering with addiction counselors, therapists, or group support systems, people can face their mental health struggles or past traumas head on and have a much better chance or understanding the cause of their addictions. This self-awareness will also help in the future when addicts are faced with triggers or stressors that may have led them to abuse in the past. A strong sense of self and a clear understanding of our issues can help people move past these trying times without relying on alcohol, drugs, or other substances to numb the pain.

See The Different Uses Of Medical Marijuana And How It Works

It’s crucial to remember that overcoming an addiction is hard work and that people should be proud of even taking the initial steps to stop abusing drugs or alcohol. All addiction recovery is a process, and it’s vital to be kind to yourself while you go through it.

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