What is addiction?

The word addiction is commonly used as a way of describing a person’s state where alcohol or other drug use dominates how a person functions, usually including a physical and a psychological dependence. It is a compulsion to use a substance or persist with a certain behaviour, no matter what, in order to feel good or to avoid feeling bad.

An addiction is different for everyone, depending on the substance or behaviour you crave and the kind of person you are. Not everyone who has a problem with alcohol or other drugs is addicted.

Clinicians draw a distinction between physical dependence and psychological dependence, which are features of addiction, and substance abuse. Understanding the differences is important.