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What is Addiction?

Addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (eg. alcohol, cocaine, cannabis, heroin) or engages in an activity (gambling, sex) that can be pleasurable but the continued act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health.
Users may not be aware that their behaviour is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others.

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At New Leaf, we understand how addiction can affect your life.

The word addiction is used in several different ways. One describes physical addictions. This is a biological state in which the body adapts to the presence of a drug so that drug no longer has the same effect, otherwise known as a tolerance. Because of tolerance, the biological reaction of withdrawal occurs when the drug is discontinued. Another form of physical addiction is the phenomenon of overreaction by the brain to the drugs or triggers that are associated with the drugs. A problematic drinker walking into a bar, for instance, will feel an extra pull to have a drink because of these triggers.

The focus of the addictions isn’t what matters

However, most addictive behaviour is not related to either physical tolerance or exposure to triggers. People compulsively use drugs, alcohol, gambling or sex nearly always in reaction to being emotionally stressed, whether or not they have a physical addiction. Since these psychologically based addictions are not based on drug, or even on non-drug behaviour, the focus of the addictions isn't what matters; it's the need to act under certain kinds of stress. Treating this kind of addiction requires an understanding of how it works psychologically.

When referring to any kind of addiction, it is important to recognise that its cause is not simply a search for pleasure and that addiction has nothing to do with one's morality or strength of character. Experts debate whether addiction is a "disease" or a true mental illness, whether drug addiction and dependence mean the same thing, and many other aspects of addiction. Such debates are not likely to be resolved soon. But the lack of resolution does not preclude effective treatment.

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