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Understanding Addiction

What is Addiction?

How we understand addiction continues to evolve.

The more traditional or familiar characterizations, including labels such as “alcoholic” or “drug addict”, are slowly fading away and being replaced with more varied terminology such as, misuse, dependency, compulsion, and disorder, amongst others.

However, even though the terminology and descriptions may change, the classic understanding of the symptoms stay largely the same.

Descriptions such as: "repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut down or stop” or “ a failure to fulfil major obligations at work, home, or school”; will still sound familiar.[i]

What are the consequences of Addiction?

For those who are deep in the throes of addiction, there is still very little nuance in the experience. In fact, most often, an overwhelming urge to commit the addictive act - despite the consequences - is the common outcome.

Addiction can lead to real devastation, and sadly, understanding it fully can still be a mystery. It is easy to oversimplify, to narrow everything down to one thing; but in reality, there is not one thing that explains addiction.

If anyone says that addiction is straightforward, they are wrong. A full blown addiction can contain an intricate web of thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and family history, as well as biological and psychological processes.

Help for Addiction

Thankfully, the path to recovery is well-established and becoming more and more accessible. And hopefully, many will find it. But the process cannot to be taken lightly, and, where a struggle persists (as it will invariably), those individuals seeking change should be met with understanding and support.

If you currently struggle with an addiction, seek help now. Counselling for addictions is available, as well as other forms of treatment, depending upon the severity of the behavior and upon your circumstances.

Additional Resources


[i] American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., Text Revision). Washington, DC: Author.

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