What is addiction?

Addiction is a scary word but understanding exactly what it means might help you understand your drug use better.


Addiction (also called dependence) is an overwhelming desire or compulsion to continue taking a drug, despite the negative impact on the user’s life. It gets worse over time, which is why it's helpful to recognise the signs early and take action before it becomes more difficult to reduce or stop using. Addiction can be physical, psychological, or both.

Physical addiction is when the brain craves a substance for its effect. If the drug is not taken, the body experiences an unpleasant withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms are worse for some drugs (alcohol and opiates) than others (cannabis and methamphetamine).

Psychological addiction is a pattern of behaviour which leads to habitual use. While not considered highly addictive, ecstasy (MDMA) use can be psychologically addictive but not physically.

If you're strongly addicted to a drug, cutting down may not be a realistic option and stopping could be challenging. Recovery may be an ongoing process, and can even involve creating a new life. DrugHelp is a great place to start, and you may decide to access professional treatment services.

AddictionAddiction takes over your life, but with a bit of help you can get it back.

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Because I was addicted from the get-go. It’s very addictive. Some people probably could’ve put it down but I couldn’t. It ruins your life and it runs your life.

Prue