Substance Abuse: A Guide to Different Types of Addiction


Addiction is a complicated disease that has psychological and physiological symptoms. The scientific community has spent decades working to understand addiction better. As a result, the way that addiction is categorized, diagnosed, and treated is evolving.

Substance use disorder is the first thing people associate with addiction. However, it’s just one of many types of addiction. People can have behavioral addictions to gambling, shopping, sex, etc.

Addiction is traditionally divided into two categories. Chemical addiction is the use of drugs, alcohol, or other substances. Behavioral addictions are compulsive behaviors. They’re persistent, repeated, and carried out even if they produce negative results.

We discuss different types of addiction in this article. Knowing other forms of addiction teaches you how it affects you. Furthermore, with this knowledge, you can begin to understand how to get better. 

Behavioral Addiction

Behavioral addiction includes dedicating vast amounts of time to engaging in addictive behavior. An addicted individual will continue to engage in the behavior despite adverse consequences. They choose to ignore how it affects their quality of life, relationships, or responsibilities. An addicted person will turn to addictive behavior to mask negative emotions.

With addictions like gambling or pornography, people try to hide the behavior. They may even lie about how much time they spend engaging in it. It is difficult, if not impossible, for them to avoid the behavior. And, they may feel compelled to continue even when it is distressing for them.

Chemical Addiction

Substance use disorder can leave a person with intense cravings. Many times, these cravings impact their ability to focus. They cannot think about anything else but getting access to the drug or alcohol of their choice. With time, tolerance is developed. They must get more of the substance to have the same effect it did at first.

Substance use disorders lead to relationship difficulties. People may spend less time on activities they previously enjoyed. Ignoring responsibilities at work may also happen. Unfortunately, chemical addictions can begin to take over a person’s life. 

Abusing substances makes users feel powerless because they’re unable to stop. If they try to quit, they will experience debilitating withdrawal symptoms. So, to avoid withdrawal, they continue to abuse substances such as opioids. 

The Elements of Addiction

The key elements of addiction are:

  • Reward
  • Cravings and tolerance
  • Loss of interest in other activities
  • Loss of control


When you do something rewarding, like eat a good meal, drink alcohol, or use illicit drugs, the brain releases chemicals like dopamine. Dopamine creates a connection between certain activities and feeling pleasure. So when you experience happy feelings, you naturally want to do these activities again.

Cravings and Tolerance

The drive to experience the reward can lead to cravings. As a result, you engage in the behavior or substance that pleased you previously. The more you abuse a substance, the more dopamine your brain produces. 

However, when you don’t engage in pleasurable behavior or use a drug, your brain produces less dopamine. So normal activities become less enjoyable. You need more of a dopamine-producing substance to compensate for the dopamine your brain lacks. This process is known as tolerance.

Loss of Interest in Other Activities

As addiction progresses, you lose interest in things you usually enjoy. When you’re not using drugs, you feel like you need them to feel anything.

Being addicted to drugs or something else may also result in depression. So, it’s only natural that you lose interest in some or all activities. It’s an ongoing cycle until you decide you need help. 

Loss of Control

Eventually, you lose your ability to control how much a substance affects you. Thus, addiction causes people to lose their jobs, health, and life.

Getting Help

It’s challenging to heal from addiction without the proper support. If you or a loved one needs help, it’s best to reach out to a trained professional. 

A recovery center can offer residential treatment, therapy, medication, and support groups. Many of these treatments bring a scientific approach to addiction recovery.

The medical community still has a lot to learn about why and how addiction happens. However, addiction is treatable. And you do not have to suffer alone.