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What is Drug Addiction?

Drugs (substances that can change your mental or physical state of being) are becoming more and more accessible as time goes on. This has, unsurprisingly, resulted in an increase in drug addiction. Drug addiction can be defined as a disorder where someone relapses in 3 stages, including “preoccupation/anticipation, binge/intoxication, and withdrawal/negative affect” [1]. Oftentimes, the transition from using drugs to becoming addicted is termed “user to the abuser,” where the person starts to become dependent on the effects of a drug to function.

There is still some debate as to whether drug addiction is a disorder or a choice. Gene Heyman, the author of Addiction: A disorder of choice, explains how drug addiction is “a result of natural processes involving voluntary (i.e., operant) behavior, specifically choice” [2]. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse says otherwise, stating that “Addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease…[s]imilar to other chronic, relapsing diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease….[2].

It is hard to fully understand how free will comes into play with substances that alter your mind and body. Drug addiction often results in significant issues for the abuser, such as “social problems, physical harm, and premature death” [3]. Short-term, the feeling that you get from taking drugs can feel liberating, but long term it can become fatal. Addiction, in its simplest form, is a habit that enhances “depressive or anxious traits,” leading an individual to become reliant on drugs, and to move away from the people and things they may have loved [3].

The best way to treat drug addiction is early intervention. It is best to stay away from drugs altogether, but if you are using substances and start to feel depressive or anxious, it is recommended to seek help right away. Most people will not seek the help they need because they are not ready to stop using substances. Become educated on the topic and you will find that drugs can greatly influence your life on a negative level. Do not wait to seek help, whether that be from a family member, friend, counselor, doctor, etc.


1. Herman MA, Roberto M. The addicted brain: understanding the neurophysiological mechanisms of addictive disorders. Front Integr Neurosci. 2015 Mar 19;9:18. doi: 10.3389/fnint.2015.00018. PMID: 25852502; PMCID: PMC4365688.

2. Branch MN. Drug addiction. Is it a disease or is it based on choice? A review of Gene Heyman's Addiction: A disorder of choice. J Exp Anal Behav. 2011 Mar;95(2):263–7. doi: 10.1901/jeab.2011.95-263. PMCID: PMC3047254.

3. Fenton T, Wiers RW. Free Will, Black Swans and Addiction. Neuroethics. 2017;10(1):157-165. doi: 10.1007/s12152-016-9290-7. Epub 2016 Nov 21. PMID: 28725285; PMCID: PMC5486524.



Author: Kayjah Taylor

Editor: Liam Lynch

Health scientist: Catherine Sarwat

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