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Addiction is characterized by thoughts and behaviours that include one or more of the following: impaired control over drug use, compulsive use, continued use despite harm and craving.

There are many different kinds of addictions. Drug addiction, for example, is a dependence on a street drug, prescription drugs or over-the-counter medication. When a person has an addiction, they may not be able to control their drug use and may continue using the drug despite the harm it causes. Drug addiction can cause an intense craving for the drug. Most people find that they are not able to quit alone. Not everyone who uses drugs becomes addicted, but what starts as casual use can lead to drug addiction for some.

Behavioural addictions include gambling, computer/video games, exercise, surfing the Internet or sex.

Signs and Symptoms

Addiction symptoms and behaviours include:

  • Feelings of anxiety, irritability or depression
  • Spending money on the addiction rather than essentials like food and rent
  • Loss of hope
  • Sustaining injuries while under the influence
  • Blackouts
  • Relationship problems
  • Lack of control

Causes / Physiology

No single factor causes addiction. People become addicted because of a combination of factors, including genetic factors, how drugs interact with the brain, their environment and mental health issues (especially anxiety or depression). Some people may turn to substances as a way of coping with difficult emotions or situations.


Treatment can include addiction programs that offer services for drug or alcohol problems, gambling, smoking or other addictions. Specialized services may include withdrawal management, residential treatment, outpatient services and counselling sessions for patients and their family members.

Related Links

HeretoHelp (a project of the BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information): www.heretohelp.bc.ca

Pinewood Centre
Alcohol Use Disorders - Resources for Clients

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