Substance addiction

What is it? 

Addiction, derived from the Latin word “addictus” meaning “enslaved”, is a severe loss of self-control. It’s an overpowering urge to indulge in substances like alcohol, drugs, or activities like gambling and internet use. This uncontrollable drive, despite its harmful effects, can lead to significant distress and disrupt social ties. Particularly vulnerable are the world’s youth (10-24 years), who make up over a quarter of the global population. Substance abuse, especially alcohol among males, is a leading cause of global disability. Treating addiction is a pressing challenge, as it’s more than a choice—it’s a biological and psychological effect on the brain that we’re only beginning to understand. 


  • Regular Use: Feeling that you have to use the drug regularly — daily or even several times a day 
  • Intense Cravings: Having intense urges for the drug that block out any other thoughts 
  • Increased Tolerance: Over time, needing more of the drug to get the same effect 
  • Neglecting Responsibilities: Not meeting obligations and work responsibilities or cutting back on social or recreational activities because of drug use 
  • Continued Use Despite Harm: Continuing to use the drug, even though you know it’s causing problems in your life or causing you physical or psychological harm 
  • Risky Activities: Doing things to get the drug that you normally wouldn’t do, such as stealing. Driving or doing other risky activities when you’re under the influence of the drug 
  • Withdrawal Symptoms: Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to stop taking the drug 
  • Neglecting Appearance: Not caring about your physical appearance as much as you used to 
  • Mood and Behaviour Changes: Sudden changes in mood and behaviour 
  • Hostility or Denial: Hostility or denial when you’re confronted about substance use 


Substance addiction is a complex condition with multiple causes. It’s not solely about the substance or activity, but rather a mix of biological, psychological, and social factors. Individual feelings, emotional state, family relationships, social ties, community attributes, employment status, stress reactivity, coping skills, physical or emotional pain, personality traits, educational opportunities, compelling goals, and access to rewards in life all play a role. Additionally, genetics, environment, trauma, and mental health are known risk factors. The interplay of these factors makes addiction a multifaceted problem that requires a comprehensive approach to treatment. 


An important fact that drives eventual outcomes is that most cases of addiction do not usually develop immediately and the earlier the intervention the better the chance of avoiding a condition that can become destructive and unrelenting. Prevention is often better than cure, but it is never too late to find your personal recovery. Interventions are multifaceted and tailored to the individual’s needs, including medical care, psychotherapy, lifestyle changes, and intervention meetings. Treatment is a continuous process and may change over time based on the individual’s progress and needs.