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What is addiction

Addiction is a habitual mental disease, where there is a fault in the brain memory, motivation and reward system. The addiction enables the individual to pursue reward via a practised habit. It is characterised by persistent substance use or problematic behaviours, despite knowledge of the negative consequences. In 2001, it was estimated that 118,500 people received treatment from drug misuse agencies in England. It is difficult to determine exact figures, as many do not seek help from health services.

Signs and symptoms of addiction

Tolerance and dependence fuel substance addiction. Someone who has developed tolerance to a substance requires increasing doses to feel the desired effects. Taking ever-increasing doses or taking them more frequently to overcome tolerance can speed up the development of dependence. When someone is dependent on a substance, they need it to feel normal and will often experience some form of withdrawal when use is cut back or stopped. Another sign of addiction is continued use of the substance, even though a person has developed related illnesses. For example, a smoker may continue smoking after the development of a lung or heart condition. They may or may not be aware of the health impact of the substance or behaviour.

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