Elijah Black is a Greenville, South Carolina native with a B.A. English from Coastal Carolina University. He is a fiction writer and also works as a freelance writer and editor. He’s worked as a Production Assistant for WYFF 4 and has been published in several publications and websites across the United States.

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Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

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Licensed Auto Insurance Agent Rachael Brennan

UPDATED: Apr 1, 2021

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Addiction is a tough topic to tackle because of the stigma surrounding it. Addiction is rarely talked about around the dinner table or at a cocktail party. It isn’t pleasant. It isn’t fun. But the truth is that addiction may be affecting someone you love at this very moment.

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Renew Everyday reminds us that, “No two addicts are the same.” Addiction is individual. It can affect each addict in a unique way, as well as friends and family members who are impacted by the repercussions of addiction.

23 million Americans ages 12 and older suffer from drug and alcohol addiction.

1.8 million Americans were treated in drug and alcohol facilities in 2006.

More than 15 million of these Americans are dependent on alcohol, 4 million are dependent on drugs, and the remainder is dependent on both.

23% of adults in 2009, the highest percentage in more than a decade, consumed more than five drinks a day—according to the CDC.

More than 6 million children in America live with at least one drug addicted parent.

Substance abuse is serious, and it is also costly. According to DrugAbuse.gov, tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs place a heavy burden on our nation, estimated at over $600 billion a year. These costs add up in the form of healthcare expenses, lost work productivity, drunk driving dangers and addiction-related crime.2

Looking at the entire picture of addiction is bleak, which is what makes the subject so difficult to talk about. Yet this makes it all the more important to speak about addiction freely to provide encouragement to those in treatment and extend a hand to addicts in need of help.

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There are many rumors and misconceptions surrounding addiction

People with an addiction do not have control over what they are doing, taking or using. Their addiction may reach a point at which it is harmful. Addictions do not only include physical things we consume, such as drugs or alcohol, but may include virtually anything, such abstract things as gambling to seemingly harmless products, such as chocolate – in other words, addiction may refer to a substance dependence (e.g. drug addiction) or behavioral addiction (e.g. gambling addiction).

As you can see from the statistics above, the most commonly discussed addictions are those to substances, like drugs and alcohol. While a tobacco addiction may be problematic and affect health over the long-term, it is not likely to require in-patient treatment. Behavioral addictions, like sex and gambling, may be harder to detect and treat. Nonetheless, behavioral addiction must still be taken as seriously as substance addiction.

The science behind addiction has come a long way. Nearly a century ago, those addicted to substances were thought to lack willpower. Today, science supports a deep-seated addiction response in the brain. This has shed important light on the widespread problem of drug and alcohol addiction. Scientific research confirms that addiction is a disease that can affect both brain and behavior.

Treatment for addiction is of the utmost importance as drug and alcohol use changes the brain over time. As the brain begins to adapt to the presence of a drug, regions outside of the initial “reward pathway” are impacted. Soon enough, physical changes take place to hardwire the brain in new ways—irreparably affecting judgment, learning, decision-making, and memory processes.

More than 6 million children in America live with at least one drug addicted parent.

After cocaine use, connections 0between neurons in the nucleus accumbens, part of the reward pathway, increase in number, size, and strength.

What leads a person down the slippery slope of addiction?

  • 75% of addicts have described an unhappy childhood, family stress, or intense pressure in the workplace.
  • 25% of substance abusers cite reasons like social anxiety, bad marriages, peer pressure, and fear.3

Substance abuse may be circumstantial or experimental. The classic addiction cycle may begin with occasional use that soon becomes frequent.

It is critical to intervene in an addict’s behavior and provide recovery support to break this cycle and offer a permanent exit.

In order to treat addiction, the first step is admitting you have a problem. This is the first step in the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, and for good reason. Admitting addiction will open the door to recovery. It will be impossible to help an addict or to receive help as an addict if you are not open to rehabilitation.

Often the success rate of a 12-step program is directly linked to the number of years a member has stuck with the program, plus additional medical or counseling treatment.

Currently, almost 90 percent of addiction treatment programs involve a 12-step program.

Retention rate of 12-Step Programs

It’s critical to recognize the signs of addiction early on to seek help.

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Signs and symptoms od addiction  

  • Strong cravings for a substance or habit.
  • Focus on maintaining a supply of a substance or access to a habit.
  • Need to use a substance or habit regularly—daily or multiple times a day.
  • Spending money on a substance or habit that you can’t afford
  • Inability to stop the use of a substance or habit without withdrawal.
  • Using a substance or habit to deal with personal problems.
  • Increased tolerance for a substance or habit—more is needed to achieve the same “high” or feeling.
  • Risking personal safety under the influence of a substance or when engaged in a habit.
  • Failed attempts to quit a substance or habit.

Some of the most common addictive substances or habits include: 

  • Prescription drugs
  • Illegal drugs
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Gambling
  • Sex
  • Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia

Under the category of illegal drugs, addictive substances may include:

  • Opioids, such as heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • Amphetamines, such as
    methamphetamine (or meth)
  • Hallucinogens
  • Inhalants
  • Phencyclidine, called
    Angeldust or PCP

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Most commonly, a person may be addicted to a specific substance, such as alcohol or cocaine. However, it is easy to overlook the fact that there are a number of people categorized as “non-specific addicts.” These addictive behaviors are much harder to pin down as the addict may be drawn to a number of different habits and substances; their addiction can change at any time.


The three most commonly abused prescription drugs include opioids for pain relief; CNS depressants, such as sedatives and tranquilizers prescribed for anxiety or sleeping problems; and stimulants, most frequently prescribed for ADHD, sleep disorder narcolepsy, and obesity.
Less “dangerous” behavioral addictions to a certain habit may also be difficult to detect and diagnose. For example, it is possible to have a food addiction characterized by binging and restriction, even without significant weight gain or loss.

Shopping is a potentially dangerous behavioral addiction that can result in financial stress, bankruptcy, and even kleptomania, caused by the compulsive urge to buy. Other lesser-known behavioral addiction categories may include addiction to the Internet, lying, video games, money, fame, television, rage, stealing, setting fires, body image, and more.


There are several important criteria for an addiction that everyone should understand. Even if you don’t exhibit addictive behavior yourself, you can use these guidelines to provide support for a friend or family member struggling with addiction.

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The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
provides seven criteria for addiction:

  • Tolerance including a need for increased amounts of a substance to achieve the same effect or noticeably diminished effect when continually using the same amount of a substance.
  • Large amounts of time spent in substance related activities, such as obtaining a substance, using, or recovering.
  • Withdrawal after substance use is discontinued.
  • Interference in occupational, social, or recreational activities because of substance use.
  • Unintentionally taking larger amounts of a substance or using a substance over a longer period of time.
  • Continued substance use in spite of experiencing a recurrent physical or psychological problem caused by the substance.
  • Persistent desire for a substance, even after attempts to control use.

Substance use or addictive behavior that fits the seven criteria above may qualify as an addiction

If you are dependent on alcohol, for example, you may notice an increased tolerance over long-term use. This simply means that you will need to drink more of the same type of alcohol in the same amount of time to get buzzed or drunk. You may also experience physical withdrawal symptoms if you quit drinking cold turkey. You may spend a large amount of time surrounding alcohol use, like driving to the liquor store, partying with friends, recovering from a hangover, and trying to hide the behavior from friends and family. This puts you at risk of driving drunk. Some of the consequences of that are the need to get sr22 insurance.

The highest number of heroin addicts per capita can be found in Baltimore, Maryland, compared to any other city in the US.

Likewise, a gambling addict can exhibit the same type of behavior. You may need to gamble more in order to get the same high or thrill. You may have a persistent desire for gambling, even when you are not engaged in the activity. Gambling may interfere in your work, social, and recreational activities if you would rather gamble than work or spend time with friends.

As the AA saying goes, the first step is admitting that you have a problem. If you are not willing to be honest about your addiction, effective treatment will be nearly impossible.

It is important to ask for help if you have noticed any of the symptoms of addiction listed above or have seen the same behaviors in a friend or family member. It’s also imperative to cooperate with medical professionals and clinic staff during rehabilitation to learn how to manage addiction and minimize the chance of relapse.

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It is never too early to seek help.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to addiction treatment. There are a number of treatment programs and therapies available for different addictions and individuals. The most important step is to reach out to a loved one, a medical professional, or an organization that specializes in addiction treatment as soon as possible.

Substance abuse treatment is especially important as it can be used to manage physical withdrawal symptoms with medication.

Treatment can also help to restore normal brain function after drug and alcohol use and prevent relapse by minimizing cravings within the treatment process. Medications may improve treatment outcome in tobacco, opioid, stimulant, and marijuana addiction, in some cases. Outpatient behavioral treatment for addiction may include cognitive behavioral therapy, multidimensional family therapy, and motivational incentives that utilize positive reinforcement.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, now is the perfect time to get help.

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Top 10 Resources for Addiction Recovery

For addiction help, you can make an appointment with your doctor or a substance abuse center in your local area right away. You can also contact these helpful addiction recovery organizations for more resources:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • American Board of Addiction Medicine
  • DrugFree.org:1-855-DRUGFREE
  • Lighthouse Network: 1-877-562-2565
  • Mental Health America
  • National Council on Problem Gambling:
  • Recovery.org:1-888-255-1403
  • SAMHSA: Substance Abuse and Mental Health
    Services Administration:

  • The Treatment Center: 1-877-392-3342
  • 24HourAddictionHelp.org: 1-800-447-9081