What is Drug Addiction? Drug Addiction Information

Drug addiction is a serious health problem. Learn the meaning of drug addiction, how drug addictions start, causes of drug addictions, other drug addiction info.

Drug addiction is a serious and expensive societal problem with the U.S. Surgeon General identifying control of drug abuse a top priority in the Healthy People 2010 goals for the nation.1 Drug addiction is also a serious problem for individuals with up to 13% of Americans abusing alcohol and 25% of Americans smoking cigarettes.2

Drug addiction is not a character flaw or a lack of willpower but is actually a mental illness and should be treated as a medical issue, just as any other illness.

What is Drug Addiction? - Meaning of Drug Addiction

Drug addiction has a number of different definitions, varying by medical body. The commonality among drug addiction definitions, however, is the inability to stop using the drug in spite of numerous attempts. The symptoms of drug addiction include:

  • The drug user has developed a drug tolerance, needing to consume increasingly greater quantities to experience the desired effect
  • The drug user experiences withdrawal symptoms when not using the drug
  • Drug use is continued in spite of harm caused to the drug user, the drug user's life and the lives of those around the user

Drug addiction, as a term, is not defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Instead of drug addiction, the DSM uses the term "drug dependence" and also includes "drug abuse." Both of these are considered to be substance use disorders.3

When Does Drug Addiction Start?

Most drug use begins in adolescence, often with experimentation with prescription drugs, cigarettes or alcohol (read: teen drug abuse). While almost half of 12th-graders admit to taking an illicit substance at some time in their lives, drug addiction information shows the vast majority of these people will "phase out" of drug use and never meet the criteria for drug addiction or drug abuse.

What Drugs Cause Drug Addiction?

Drug addiction information indicates any type of drug can be abused or cause drug addiction. Drug addiction involves easily accessible drugs like tobacco and alcohol, as well as illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin. Some drug addictions, like alcoholism, appear to be declining, while others, like methamphetamine addiction, is on the rise.

Drug addiction info indicates the following drugs and drug types are commonly associated with drug addiction:4 5

  • Alcohol - most widely abused drug with 20% of users becoming dependent on it at some point
  • Opiates - substances derived from the opium poppy, the most common drug addiction is that of heroin
  • Cocaine, crack - up to 10% of users go on to heavy drug use
  • Amphetamines - like crystal meth, use on the rise in rural communities
  • Hallucinogens - like PCP, LSD and marijuana, often combined with other drugs
  • Prescription medication - such as oxycodone and morphine
  • Other chemicals - like tobacco, steroids and others

Go here, if you are interested in drug abuse information covering symptoms, effects, causes, treatments, more.

article references

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2021, December 15). What is Drug Addiction? Drug Addiction Information, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Last Updated: December 29, 2021

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

More Info