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Types of addiction

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There are addictions to substances and addictions to behaviours. All of them progress in the same manner, and share common symptoms.


The most popular addiction is that related to substances, but consequences may not differ when there is abuse of the use of internet, sex and love, food, exercise, gambling or shopping. That is, any such compulsive behaviour which makes the individual lose control of his/her life.


In truth there are no different types of addiction as such; only different manifestations of the condition. While one person may become dependent on alcohol, someone else addicted to legal or illegal drugs and another person addicted to gambling or some other behaviour, the central dynamic is the same in each: an all-consuming relationship with a substance or activity that changes mood. We know also that people who give up one drug or behaviour are at risk of developing an addictive relationship with an alternative.


In some people, addictive relationships with different substances or behaviours coexist. So, a person may find that their use of alcohol and cocaine are both of concern.  Or another person may have a problematic relationship simultaneously with gambling, alcohol and pornography. Addiction can develop to substances that are self-administered by the taker or to drugs prescribed by a doctor. Some legal drugs may be illegally obtained and consumed.



There are many variations and combinations on the single theme of addiction.


The same diagnostic criteria can be applied whatever the characteristics of the relationship.


​While many of the harmful consequences are also common to all these manifestations of addiction, there are some harms that are specific to use of the particular substance or behaviour. For instance, the mental and physical effects of an alcohol addiction are different to those of addiction to heroin, cocaine or gambling.




Addictions can either create mental health problems or result from an attempt to cope with them. We develop an individual’s treatment plan based on either case.  Happily, for many people symptoms of mental ill-health fade away once recovery is established. But it is not always the case and appropriate care has to be put in place.



Co-Existing Disorders


Both physical and mental disorders can co-exist with addiction.  Some, including those that have roots in adverse experiences, including trauma early in life, play a part in the onset of addiction while others may result from it. Others, occur as a result of the addiction.



Physical problems may include pre-existing conditions as well as diminished general health, infections and injuries brought on by the addictive behaviour and lifestyle that neglects personal care.  Muscular tension and pain as well as dental problems often feature in a person’s profile.





Cross-addiction and dual mental illness


Also known as Addiction Interaction. A behavioral addiction, such as food obsession can lead to a drug addiction in a search of controlling weight. In anorexia nervosa cocaine is of common use, for it reduces appetite.


Replacing a dependency for another can also occur. Swiping dependency from drugs or from behaviours. These are cross-addictions.


Mental disorders can coexist with addiction. Such mental dual illness requires a customized treatment.                                                                                                                                                                                    

Substance addiction can develop both with prescribed legal and illegal drugs:



Alcoholism is a progressive, chronic illness and in many cases can be fatal when the consumption of alcoholic drinks is out of control. It interferes with physical, mental, social and/or family health in addition to work responsibilities.




Cocaine is a drug belonging to the group of psychoactive substances, that is, it produces a directly stimulating effect to the central nervous system, principally to the brain. Cocaine tolerance develops quickly, which means that it is highly addictive.



Cannabis is one of the illegal drugs that is most widely used. Use is common in adolescents and young people as it is often mistakenly considered a ‘soft’ drug. 19.5% of the Spanish population between 15 and 65 years of age have tried it on some occasion. A figure which increases to nearly one in three (28.2%) if we focus on the 15–29-year-old age group.





Dependence or addiction to benzodiazepines is a condition where a person is dependent on a benzodiazepine medication, where dependence can be both psychological as well as physical, or a combination of both.






Heroin and other opiates are sedative drugs which deprive the nervous system, slow the function of the organism and combat emotional and physical pain. Generally, opiates block pain messages, creating a false sense of calm and increasing the sensation of pleasure in the brain. The most common effect of heroin is the feeling of relaxation, warmth and indifference, together with a reduction of anxiety.




Behavioural addictions:


Eating disorders embrace many other chronic and progressive illness, made up of a variety of complex symptoms that go far away from the eating disorder itself, such a distorted self -image, an enormous fear of gaining weight and picking up a number of valuable references about corporeal image. These illnesses require a multi-factorial analysis (individual – family – society).


Behavioural addictions are treated in the same way as substance addictions. Behaviours that can lead to addiction include:

  • Gambling

  • Sex

  • New technologies (internet, mobile phones, social media, videogames)

  • Shopping

  • Work

  • Co-dependency


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