Addiction is defined as an urge to do something, such as an activity or a drug, repeatedly, without taking care of the consequences.

For example, a cigarette abuser user might proceed to use tobacco products even after being diagnosed with and illness caused by the person's addiction. Or a cocaine user might proceed to desire the drug even after being found purchasing coke in a substandard part of town.

Addiction can arise in two ways - physical addiction or mental addiction .

Mood-altering substances include the following 'types:'

DEPRESSANTS: These slow down the activity of the nervous system. They include:
    - alcohol
    - inhalants (including glue, nail polish remover, cleaning fluid, lighter fluid,
    antifreeze, aerosol from cans or household products and gasoline)
    - minor tranquilizers (including Valium), and
    - sedatives (including barbiturates, Quaaludes, and PCP).
All depressants except PCP can be obtained legally.

STIMULANTS: These stimulate activity, suppress the appetite,
and alleviate emotional depression. They include:
    - the legal drugs caffeine and nicotine
    - legal and illegal amphetamines, and
    - the illegal methadrine, ecstasy and cocaine.
HALLUCINOGENS: These are "mind-distorters, used only to create altered perceptions. They include:
    - marijuana, (only recently has marijuana been considered for medical purposes)
    - LSD, and
    - mescaline.
All hallucinogens are illegal.

NARCOTICS: These have an analgesic effect. They relieve physical pain and make surgery possible,
but they are highly addictive. They include:
    - morphine
    - codeine, and
    - heroin.
When we begin to use any mood-altering substance, we may move ourselves along a path from ABSTINENCE to MODERATION to MISUSE to DEPENDENCY to ADDICTION.

The effects of any drug are dependent on several variables:

    * the amount taken at one time.
    * the user's past drug experience.
    * the manner (method) in which the drug is taken.
    * the circumstances under which the drug is taken (the place, the user's psychological and emotional stability, the presence of other people, the simultaneous use of alcohol or other drugs, etc.).

ADDICTION is continued, excessive or compulsive (meaning not in control) MIS-USE or ABUSE of a mood-altering substance, WHEN IT'S AFFECTING YOUR LIFE IN AT LEAST ONE NEGATIVE WAY.

In other words, addiction is the experience we have when we continue any activity over which we have little control, even after that activity causes problems in our lives. Those problems may manifest in any or all of the following areas:

1. family or social relationships
2. legal matters
3. financial affairs
4. health
5. employment status

Some of the characteristics of addiction include:

1. an 'over-involvement' with the substance -- we are totally absorbed by it.
2. a great deal of time and energy is taken up by activities related to using.
3. a tendency to quit or try to control our use of the substance, and then relapsing.
4. changes in lifestyle over time: planning our lives with using in mind, hanging out with different people

Generally speaking, the further along the continuum toward addiction one moves, the more life problems they experience.

Some people believe that addiction is an ILLNESS or a DISEASE. It certainly IS an 'unhealthy state of being,' and it does affect us physically and mentally, so that 'label' may fit. It may also relieve us of some of the guilt we feel for having the problem, or for not having the "will power" to do something about it.

On the other hand, it is important NOT to let the 'disease model' of addiction take away our responsibility for dealing with it. Just like if we had diabetes and didn't try to control it in accepted ways, we are responsible for how we deal with the 'dis-ease' of addictions.

Here's some interesting facts and stats about women.

Read the National Institute on Drug Abuse's recommendations regarding women and health, HERE

Here's an interesting look at the history of how people have used drugs and alcohol to change how they feel!
The History of Psychoactive Drug Use

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