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What is drug addiction?

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If you or a loved one are experiencing drug addiction, you may feel overwhelmed, stuck, and wondering what is drug addiction anyways? Unfortunately, societal stigma means some people view drug addiction as rooted in a lack of willpower. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Drug addiction can happen to anyone regardless of background, and its roots are often complex and multifaceted.

To help you get to grips with drug addiction and take the first vital steps toward recovery, we’ve produced an informative drug addiction explanation, including the stages of addiction and how to seek treatment for substance abuse disorders. Remember – the road to recovery is sometimes rocky, but everyone has the potential to overcome drug addiction and regain control of their lives.

Need immediate help? Call New Horizons Medical at 888-999-2041.

Outpatient mental health and addiction treatment in Massachusetts.
Outpatient mental health and addiction treatment in Massachusetts.

Defining drug addiction

Put simply, drug addiction occurs when a person compulsively takes substances despite their harmful social, physical, and mental consequences. Also known as substance abuse disorder, drug addiction can alter the structure and function of the brain, causing extreme cravings and impulse control problems. 

People can be addicted to one or more drugs at once. Common dependencies include:

What are the stages of addiction?

Everyone’s addiction story is different. However, most people experience several stages of addiction as their condition progresses and worsens. These include:

The experimentation stage

People don’t typically become addicted to a drug after first experiencing its effects. Rather, they start out using the substance due to curiosity or peer pressure. For some people, their experience with a drug does not progress past the experimentation phase or does not progress to addictive levels. For example, many people enjoy alcohol without developing an addiction.

More frequent use

Having experimented with a drug once and experienced no or few negative effects, people may begin to use it more frequently. While regular use doesn’t necessarily lead to addiction, it could help someone develop a casual attitude toward substance abuse. 

Problematic usage

Once a person starts to experience the negative side effects of drug use, we may classify their usage as problematic. For example, it could start affecting their physical wellbeing and appearance, as well as their close relationships and ability to engage with work or school. Despite such unpleasant consequences, someone with an emergent addiction will not be able to stop using the substance(s).


A person who is dependent on a drug will start to require the substance to function. For example, someone with alcohol use disorder may need to drink in the morning to control tremors, while someone with a heroin dependence may start to experience physical weakness and nausea. In such cases, people often prioritize sourcing and taking the substance above all other considerations in their lives, including family and friends.


Finally, someone in the throes of addiction cannot control their substance use even if they desperately want to quit. Fortunately, there is help available to help patients with addiction regain control and prevent themselves from relapsing in future. 

What is the impact of drug addiction?

Substance abuse disorders can impact almost every aspect of a person’s life. As well as overdose and death, a person with drug addiction may experience temporary or permanent organ damage, respiratory complications, neurological issues, and psychiatric disorders. Addiction could even increase a person’s chances of contracting infectious diseases such as hepatitis through infected needles or risky sexual behaviors.

Addiction can also impact relationships with peers, friends, and family, as the need to obtain substances can lead to seemingly selfish and erratic behaviors. Sometimes, people experiencing addictions will also spend significant sums on drugs, leading to poverty and unstable relationships. Children with addicted parents are therefore more likely to experience mental health issues, struggle academically, engage in illegal behaviors, and experience substance abuse problems themselves. 

Finally, drug addiction causes wider societal issues, fueling crime, violence, and social problems. Unfortunately, such behaviors can mean people enter into a criminal justice system that may not help them address their addiction, leading to a vicious circle that hinders access to employment and housing

Overcome addiction with our outpatient addiction treatment

At New Horizons Medicalwe offer high-quality outpatient addiction treatment programs designed to suit your physical and emotional needs. Your addiction history can be complex, often compounded by trauma and mental health issues. Our holistic approach is designed to help those facing these challenges. For more information about our dual diagnosis treatment and compassionate care, contact us to book a consultation for yourself or a loved one in need.

 Call New Horizons Medical at 888-999-2041!

Outpatient mental health and addiction treatment in Massachusetts.
Outpatient mental health and addiction treatment in Massachusetts.

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