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  • Writer's pictureNicholas Nack

What is Addiction?

Updated: Sep 7, 2022


Addiction is defined as a “chronic dysfunction of the brain system that involves reward, motivation, and memory”(Tyler, 2018). Common addictions include alcohol, drugs, tobacco, caffeine, food, gambling, shopping, sex, and the internet ("Science of Addiction," 2019, p. 14). There are many diagnosable disorders for addictions, and they tend to have similar themes. The following are some of the signs: strong craving for the addictive behavior or item, tolerance, withdrawal, and continued behavior even when serious consequences in social, occupational, health, relationship, or psychological areas are present (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 2013). One may also lack emotional response and be dismissive of the harm it has caused (Tyler, 2018). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders breaks addiction diagnosis up into the categories of alcohol, caffeine, cannabis, hallucinogen, inhalant, opioid, sedative hypnotic or anxiolytic, stimulant, tobacco, other (or unknown) substance-related, and non-substance related (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 2013).


What does substance use look like in the United States?

According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics from 2020 ("Drug Abuse Statistics," 2022):

  • “Among Americans aged 12 years and older, 37.309 million were current illegal drug users (used within the last 30 days).

  • 13.5% of Americans 12 and over used drugs in the last month, a 3.8% increase year-over-year.

  • 21.4% of people 12 and over have used illegal drugs or misused prescription drugs within the last year.

  • 50.0% of people aged 12 and over have illicitly used drugs in their lifetime.

  • 25.4% of illegal drug users have a drug disorder.

  • 24.7% of those with drug disorders have an opioid disorder; this includes prescription pain relievers or “painkillers” and heroin.

  • 22% of males and 17% of females used illegal drugs or misused prescription drugs within the last year.

  • Drug use is highest among persons between the ages of 18-25 at 39% compared to persons aged 26-29, at 34%

  • 70% of users who try an illegal drug before age 13 develop a substance abuse disorder within the next 7 years compared to 27% of those who try an illegal drug after age 17”.

How Does Addiction Impact Howard County?

According to the 2020 Status Report on Missouri's Substance Use and Mental Health, Howard County had the following in terms of people admitted into the division of behavioral health substance use disorder treatment programs ("Substance use disorder treatment Howard County 2020," n.d.):

  • 36 individuals admitted

  • 21 female

  • 15 male

  • The average age at first use of drug was 19.4 years

  • Alcohol, stimulants such as methamphetamines, and marijuana were the primary problem drugs.

  • 16 of the individuals had a co-occurring psychological problem


Written by Nick Nack

Student Intern

Crossroads Counseling


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