An addiction is a psychological and physical dependence or compulsion. It refers to a state in which the body and mind relies upon a substance to function normally. If the substance is removed, withdrawal symptoms occur. Addiction may occur with alcohol, illicit or prescribed drugs.
Physical dependence describes the need for the substance. As tolerance increases, more of the substance is needed to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Psychologically, the substance creates a sense of false well-being that helps the person avoid pain.
It is my belief as a recovered addict (23 years drug and alcohol free) that addiction is the symptom not the problem. Unresolved childhood or other traumas cause a person to live with deep pain. The person discovers that drugs or alcohol help temporarily with the pain and until the underlying issues in a person’s life are resolved, the addiction will be very difficult to treat.
Addiction also describes non-substance related compulsions including gambling, pornography and other computer related addictions. These clients have a recurring compulsion to partake in these activities in spite of harmful or negative consequences.