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What are The Different Types of Addiction

picture of Joe Gilmore
Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

February 28, 2021 (Originally Published)

November 28, 2023 (Last Updated)

Table of Contents

Addiction is a global epidemic.

Whether it’s an addiction to drugs, alcohol, food, sex, a person, or even shopping, addiction can destroy careers, relationships, and even cause death.

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Being addicted to a substance or a behavior is not a sign of weakness, but rather a disease of the brain.

To heal from addiction, it’s vital to understand the root cause of damaging, compulsive behaviors.

There are different types of alcoholics, and they have different causes. Understanding how addiction affects brain chemistry can help to identify ways to overcome it and lead a happy and clean life.

This is important to every American as every person in the US is affected by addiction in some way.

The current opioid crisis has been exacerbated by the unfolding pandemic. Deaths from a drug overdose surged by 13.2% between April 2019 and April 2020.

The good news is that addiction is treatable. Many people who decide to seek a quality treatment program successfully overcome their addiction and lead fruitful and productive lives.

If a person receives a misdiagnosis however, treatment could make their problem worse. So, it’s necessary to understand the various types of addiction and ways to tackle them.

Before we explore the different types of addiction, how do we define addiction?

What Is Addiction?

Addiction is a dependence on a particular substance or behavior, often initially used to escape emotional or physical pain.

When a person continues to take a substance or pursue a behavior despite negative consequences, this is considered an addiction.

When a person withdraws from the substance or behavior, they experience overpowering and intense behaviors.

In a clinical context, addiction is considered a mental health condition. It can be influenced by genetics and environment, which makes diagnosing the causes of addiction a complex matter.

Types of Addiction

There are two main types of addiction: chemical addiction (substance use disorder), and behavioral addiction.

Substance Use Disorder

A person with a chemical addiction uses drugs to satisfy cravings for substances such as:

  • Opioids like heroin and fentanyl
  • Prescription painkillers
  • Tobacco
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Alcohol
  • Amphetamine
  • Marijuana

It is common for a person to have multiple addictions. As they develop a tolerance for a particular substance, they may seek other substances to obtain a high.

Addiction to Opioids

Many blame the current opioid crisis on the aggressive marketing tactics of prescription painkillers by big pharma companies in the 1990s.

Doctors and pharmacists were incentivized to prescribe pills such as Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Percocet. Once people became addicted to opioid painkillers, they would build a tolerance. And when prescriptions are expensive and limited, many turned to street heroin to satisfy intense withdrawals.

As a result, many people, including healthy and successful people with no history of drug abuse, became addicted to street drugs.

Drug cartels have capitalized on this crisis and now flood the drug market with fentanyl, a fatal synthetic lab opioid. Drug overdoses are now a common occurrence across US communities today.

Behavioral Addictions

Behavioral addictions display similar patterns to substance addictions and result in creating problems in a person’s life.

Like a substance use disorder, behavioral addictions put pressure on relationships, families and can destroy a person’s career and life. Types of behavioral addictions include:

  • Gambling
  • Video game playing
  • Social media
  • Sex
  • Tattooing
  • Food
  • Exercise
  • Hand washing
  • Porn

Causes of Addiction

Substance addiction and behavior addiction are similar in that they involve the reward centers in the brain.

When a person takes a substance or engages in a certain behavior, it causes the brain to release the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine produces pleasurable and relaxing feelings.

Once you eat a satisfying meal for instance, your dopamine levels can rise by 50%. When you drink alcohol, it can rise by 100%. Whenever a person takes methamphetamine or heroin, though, this can skyrocket dopamine levels by 1100%.

And when dopamine levels fall, this creates discomfort and so the addicted person seeks a new dopamine spike.

Signs of Addiction

It is normal to enjoy certain substances or behaviors that help us to relax. But, when a person becomes addicted, they can start to show behavioral signs such as:

  • Missing work, school, or important appointments
  • Sleep problems
  • Money problems
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Legal problems

A person can also start to show unusual emotional signs including:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities they typically enjoy
  • Social withdrawal
  • Hostility and obnoxious behavior
  • Argumentativeness

If you or a loved one begins to exhibit these negative behaviors be sure to reach out to an addiction treatment center to help find the best ways to curb addiction. Often people in California will choose a center located along the coast for its relaxing setting and level of care they receive.

Seeking Treatment

Addiction is treatable. With the right support, you can learn to manage cravings and live a healthy and productive life.

Medication-assisted treatment is effective in helping people become free of substances as it combines prescription medicine and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders

As addiction is rooted in negative thought patterns, cognitive behavioral therapy helps a person to identify the causes of mental health problems.

It’s commonplace for people with an addiction to have a mental health disorder. An accurate diagnosis can enable a person to get treatment for the mental health problem. By treating disordered thoughts, a person is better able to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

It may be that the addicted person has an undiagnosed mental health issue that drives their addictive behavior such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Bipolar disorder

Getting an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment, a person will become a happier version of themselves, reducing the need to engage in destructive addictive behaviors.

Types of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The type of mental health disorder a person has will decide which course of treatment they receive. There are many modalities of behavior therapy including:

  • Dialectical behavioral therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Cognitive processing therapy

These emotional therapies differ slightly, but in principle follow a similar process. It’s about identifying the root cause of negative thought patterns that create difficult emotions.

Cognitive behavioral therapy also helps a person to learn to manage withdrawal symptoms and seek healthier coping strategies. Having therapy along with our rehabilitation, residents can expect a better chance of lasting recovery.

Support Groups

Staying free from addiction is a lifelong commitment. Once a person has successfully detoxed from their addiction, it’s vital to maintain a successful recovery with ample emotional support in place.

12-step peer support groups are a powerful resource for helping people to stay free from addiction. People gain enormous hope and inspiration from hearing the stories of people in the same situation. Hearing stories of people overcoming worse obstacles can help a person to build resolve to stay free from an addiction.

Support groups like these include:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Narcotics Anonymous
  • SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training)

With the current pandemic, these groups have shifted online. While many may prefer to attend in person, remote meetings make it easier to access them and increase convenience.

Get Help for Drug and Alcohol Addiction at Renaissance Recovery

It’s important to remember that addiction is eminently treatable. Learning to identify the different types of addiction can help you identify ways to help you overcome it.

An effective treatment center with experienced and knowledgeable staff will help you to withdraw safely and learn effective coping strategies.

Rather than calling a general addiction helpline, get in touch with the friendly team here at Renaissance Recovery instead. Call us today at 866.330.9449 or fill out this online contact form, and we’ll help you reclaim your old life substance-free.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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