The Different Types of Addiction

Types of Addiction

Many people don’t realize there are different types of addiction. We can look at this in one of two ways. There are two vast types of addiction—behavioral and substance. Then, there are also different types of addictions based on the substance.

Regardless of the particular type of addiction, it’s a complex disease. Researchers are constantly learning about addiction and how it affects the brain.

We’ll briefly cover both areas below.


Chemical Addiction vs. Behavioral Addiction

Chemical addiction  is what we most commonly associate with the term addiction as a whole—chemical addiction or a substance use disorder when you compulsively use a substance. You can’t stop, even if you try, usually without professional treatment.

Behavioral addictions are compulsive behaviors. Compulsive behaviors are repeated actions that you keep doing, although they don’t benefit you and even create negative consequences in your life. We sometimes see addiction to behaviors called a process addiction. 


The Development of Addiction 

Addiction interferes with your brain’s reward system, primarily. If you do any activity you think is enjoyable, your reward system will release dopamine and other chemicals. These chemicals make you feel good.

Dopamine serves as a reinforcement to your brain about pleasurable things. When there’s reinforcement, your brain will seek out the enjoyable things again.

Then, due to the desire to want to keep experiencing the pleasurable feeling, there may be cravings you experience with addiction. In fact, for most people, cravings are the initial sign of addiction. You may keep chasing certain feelings, so you’ll engage in the behavior more or take larger doses of a substance to get it.

Your brain will release lower amounts of dopamine as it responds to typical triggers. Then you’ll need more of the behavior or substance to make up for the declines in dopamine release. This is an element of addiction and dependence called tolerance.

You may lose interest in other things in your life as you develop an addiction. You make the behavior or substance the focal point of your life. The behavior or drug becomes your top priority no matter the adverse consequences. Since you’re producing less dopamine, you might not feel happy or good about anything other than the addiction.

Finally, a loss of control characterizes addiction, primarily due to the effects on the brain function of the problematic substance or behavior. You are entirely out of control of your engaging in the behavior or substance use. You’re also likely out of control in all other areas of your life at this point.

You could experience job loss and financial issues, family conflict, divorce, or legal problems when you have an addiction disorder. 


What Are the Most Addictive Substances?

Among the types of true addiction, when comparing behavioral and substances, substances are more difficult to get treatment for many people. Substances can have a powerful effect on your brain, behavior, and physical and emotional health.

Some of the most addictive substances are:

  • Cocaine: We don’t often recognize the powerful addiction cocaine can create. Cocaine induces euphoria and high energy levels. It’s common to use the stimulant in binge patterns. When you binge on cocaine, you take repeated doses in a relatively short period of time you maintain your high. Then, you eventually crash. Crashing from cocaine can include symptoms like fatigue, depression, and cravings. Read about the side effects of cocaine here. 
  • Heroin: An illegal opioid, heroin is front and center in the national spotlight due to the ongoing opioid epidemic. Opioids like heroin create relaxation and euphoria. Heroin is highly addictive. Due to tightening regulations for prescription opioids like hydrocodone and oxycodone, more people turn to cheaper and more accessible heroin.
  • Alcohol: As a society, we tend to accept alcohol use more than other substances. This includes excessive alcohol use or alcohol abuse. Alcohol is the most frequently used addictive substance in the country. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reports 1 out of every 12 adults has a dependence or alcohol abuse problem.
  • Nicotine: In traditional cigarettes and electronic cigarettes, Nicotine is highly addictive. It can be somewhat low-risk but not for young people. Nicotine has negative effects on developing brains.
  • Methamphetamine: Methamphetamines are also known as crystal meth or just meth. These dangerous stimulants create euphoria. It’s possible to become addicted to meth after one use. Long-term meth abuse can lead to organ damage and failure, psychosis, other mental disorders, and brain damage.


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The Most Common Addictive Behaviors 

While we know a fair amount about substance addictions, we don’t know much about behavioral addictions. Behavioral addictions are more of a gray area.

There’s debate and disagreement about whether behavioral addictions are genuinely that—addictions.

The DSM-5, the standard guide to diagnosing addiction and mental health disorders, recognizes two behavioral addictions. The first is gambling addiction or compulsive gambling. The second is internet gaming disorder or an addiction to video games. Internet gaming disorder is similar to general internet addiction. 

Most mental health professionals agree behavior patterns can become compulsive and problematic. The disagreement centers around when specifically, behaviors become addictions and which particular behaviors have addiction potential versus being perhaps an impulse control disorder. 

Signs of these types of addictions which are behavioral include:

  • Spending vast amounts of time on the behavior
  • Engaging in behaviors even when there are adverse effects on your life or negative feelings. 
  • Turning to the behavior to deal with uncomfortable or unwanted emotions
  • Problems avoiding the destructive behavior, even if you want to
  • Irritability, depression, or signs of withdrawal when you can’t do the behavior are withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms occur with physical dependence on most substances too. 

The types of addictions falling into the behavioral category that people most often seek therapy for include compulsive shopping addiction, exercise, and food addiction. Sex addiction, TV, and social media are also behavior addictions for some people.


What Are the Treatments for Different Types of Addiction?

There are similarities between treating different types of addiction, including a substance use disorder and compulsive behavior. There are also differences.

The most considerable similarity is both general addiction types can benefit from therapy.

Counseling and psychotherapy can help people deal with distressing emotions. 

  • Therapy is an excellent way to get to the underlying causes of your addiction, no matter the type. 
  • You can work with a therapist to develop new coping mechanisms. 
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the most used types of therapy for addiction treatment. 
  • Dialectical behavior therapy and family therapy can also be helpful treatment options
  • Often people with compulsive behaviors or addiction have a co-occurring disorder such as anxiety or depression. Therapy can help with a psychiatric disorder as well. 

Sometimes a person with a behavioral addiction might use prescription medication as part of their treatment plan. It’s more common to use medications to treat substance abuse disorders.

  • For example, medicines can help improve long-term recovery from addiction to alcohol and opioids. 
  • Medications for addiction will generally reduce cravings and symptoms of withdrawal.
  • Medicines should be used along with behavioral therapy.
  • People with addiction may benefit from participating in a support or self-help group. 


What About Rehab?

Most people with a behavioral addiction wouldn’t go to a rehab treatment center. For substance abuse treatment, many people do benefit from residential treatment or outpatient rehab.

 Inpatient or outpatient rehab can help alcohol addiction , prescription drug addiction, and illicit drug addiction. During rehab, there is a combination of comprehensive treatments and treat mental health issues and symptoms of alcohol and drug addiction. 

If you’re struggling with any type of addiction, including substance abuse disorder, call Opus Health at 855-953-1345. Help is available, and we’d like to talk to you more about your potential treatment options.

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