What is Addiction?


The word addiction is used frequently and in many different ways. However, the exact meaning of addiction is often misunderstood even though there are over 22 million people in America alone affected by it every year (SAMHSA, 2010). Zion Recovery Center has a broad understanding of addiction and therefore we feel that in order to fully treat your addiction; you must first be properly educated on what addiction actually is as well as how it effects you physically, emotionally and psychologically. Without any further delay, we now share with you exactly “what is addiction?” 385-207-2029

Definition of Addiction

Addiction is a dysregulation of the midbrain dopamine (pleasure) system due to unmanaged stress resulting in symptoms of decreased functioning, specifically:

1.) Loss Of Control
2.) Craving
3.) Persistent Drug Use Despite Negative Consequences

 (Kevin McCauley, MD, 2012.)

Addiction is characterized by: inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.

Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social, and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.

Addiction (termed substance dependence by the American Psychiatric Association) is defined as a maladaptive pattern of substance use, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by three (or more) of the following, occurring at any time in the same 12-month period:

1. Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:

  • a need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or the desired effect
  • markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance. 

2. Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:

  • The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance
  • The same (or closely related) substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms. 

3. The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.

4. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use.

5. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance (e.g., such as visiting multiple doctors or driving long distances), use the substance (e.g., chain-smoking), or recover from its effects.

6. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use.

7. The substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance (e.g., current cocaine use despite recognition of cocaine-induced depression or continued drinking despite recognition that an ulcer was made worse by alcohol consumption).

(American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 2000.)

Is Addiction a Disease?

Once we understand the definition of addiction, would you consider it a disease? If it were, would you have a different perspective or approach on how to handle your own situation or that of a loved one? Zion Recovery Center believes that addiction is a disease and as such, we need to treat it with love, patience, and understanding. We feel it is our responsibility to not only treat this disease, but to educate the addict and their family so they fully understand their situation and the options they have to manage all the different symptoms associated with addiction.

The argument of whether addiction is really just a choice and at any time the addict has the free will to stop, or if addiction is indeed a disease of the brain and therefore bad choices are fueled by uncontrolled cravings is discussed in an amazing video by Dr. Kevin McCauley. It is called “PLEASURE UNWOVEN” and we highly recommend you watch the entire show on DVD.

Addictions Treated At Zion Recovery Center

Addiction is dynamic and needs to be treated, that’s why Zion Recovery Center specializes in treating drug and alcohol addictions or co-occurring mental health disorders. We will never mix different addictions such as eating disorders, sex offenses, gambling, etc. or severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia, autism, IQ of 80 or below, or any violent individuals in nature in the same program. Below is a list of addictions that we treat at Zion Recovery Center but are not limited to:

Heroine Opiate Alcohol Methamphetamine
Benzodiazepine Cocaine Marijuana Amphetamine
Hallucinogens Inhalants Prescription Pills
Synthetic Chemicals