1. Understanding Substance Use Problems and Addiction

What is addiction?

Addictions are behaviours that are often hard to stop and that interfere with a person’s life. The behaviour could involve a substance, such as alcohol or other drugs (i.e., substance use disorders), or an activity, such as gambling. Not everyone agrees about the exact meaning of addiction, but most descriptions include these features:

    The person cannot stop the substance use or the activity, despite trying to stop again and again.
    The substance or the activity has become the focus (or pre-occupation) of the person’s life.
    The person continues the use or activity even though there are severe negative consequences, such as legal issues or financial problems.

When people are experiencing addiction, they continue a behaviour that provides pleasure and satisfies desire, even though there are growing negative consequences. In more serious forms of addiction, the person feels a loss of control over their behaviour. People with more severe addictions often say that this feeling is the main part of their problem.