Different Types of Addiction

What are addictive behaviors, and how do they affect a patient’s daily life? Addiction comes in many shapes. Although drugs and alcohol are the most commonly misused psychoactive substances, many other entities, activities, or habits have addictive properties. Behavioral addictions range from gambling disorders to internet addiction. Patients with these disorders typically find relief in misusing/using these entities.

Overcoming addiction comes with several challenges. However, patients can still live regular lives as functional members of society — all it takes is proper guidance. Fact-based research, clinically proven treatments, and ongoing support from loved ones go a long way in speeding up recovery from different types of addiction.

AlcoholismEthyl alcohol or ethanol serves as a primary component in various alcoholic drinks, such as liquors, beer, spirits, and wine. The consumption of ethanol-based products causes intoxication. 
OpioidsOpioids come from the opium poppy plant. This drug interacts with your brain’s opioid receptors to evoke various neurological and psychological reactions, including pain relief. Hospitals use opium as prescription pain killers. However, people in active use also take it as recreational heroin.
MarijuanaMarijuana is composed of dried cannabis plant leaves or flower buds. The medical and recreational use of marijuana is legal in 37 and 18 states, respectively. However, misuse can still lead to addiction.
HallucinogensHallucinogens include various drugs, from LSD (acid) to mushrooms. However, hallucinogenic drugs all have one function: altering one’s perception of reality. In most cases, hallucinogens change how one perceives their surroundings, emotions, or thoughts.
InhalantsInhalants include a wide range of industrial and household chemicals. They typically contain pressurized gasses/volatile vapors that produce pharmacological effects if misused and ingested. The most common types include aerosols, volatile solvents, nitrites, and gases.
StimulantsStimulants include a wide class of drugs that speed up the transfer of neurological messages within the nervous system. Essentially, the brain receives and sends signals faster. Faster transfers enable one to feel more alert, active, and energetic. 
Prescription DrugsConsumers can only purchase prescription drugs with the authorization of a medical professional — a doctor’s prescription. The correct use of prescription drugs aids in combating various diseases. However, misusing prescription drugs might lead to addiction in the long run.
Co-Occurring DisordersIn addiction, co-occurring disorders include the dual diagnosis of mental health illnesses and substance use disorder. Generally, people with drug addiction also show symptoms of mental illnesses. 


Alcoholism is one of the most common addictions. Statistics show that around 6% of adults in the U.S. have an active addiction to alcohol, with not all of these patients being over 21. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) states that 50% of teenage deaths in the 15 to 24 age range involve the misuse of alcohol or illicit drugs.

However, consuming alcohol doesn’t automatically make you an alcoholic. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that heavy drinkers consume an average of 15 to 20 drinks per week, but this threshold does not dictate alcoholism. There are people with alcohol use disorder who even drink less weekly.

Alcoholism involves the compulsive need to consume alcohol, while drink thresholds rely on tolerance. Also, consistency plays an integral factor. 

For instance, downing five drinks per occasion counts as binge drinking, but this amount of alcohol is not an issue if you only drink once every two months. Alternatively, one drink per occasion seems reasonable. However, you might eventually develop a physical addiction if you drink every day.


Substance use disorder is one of the most common addictions. The severity of drug addiction ranges from the misuse of cough medicine like ​​Dextromethorphan to high-level narcotics containing opioids.

Although varying types of drug addiction involve differing substances, they typically involve the following:


Opioids include a class of prescription drugs used in pain relief. They come from opium poppy plants. Doctors typically prescribe opioids to alleviate the pain from severe injuries, surgeries, or illnesses. However, note that doctors cannot freely prescribe opioids. Most states enforce specific opioid prescribing practices to prevent the misuse of these substances.  

People with substance use disorder typically misuse opioids for their sedating effects. Opioids interact with the brain’s opioid receptors, which evokes feelings of euphoria in some.


Marijuana consists of dried cannabis plant leaves and flower buds. Unlike prescription drugs and illicit substances, many countries have already legalized the recreational use of cannabis products. Even the U.S. no longer frowns upon marijuana use. 37 states accepted the medical use of marijuana, and 18 states already allow recreational marijuana usage.

Despite the legalization of marijuana, keep in mind that misusing it has several health consequences. The effects of marijuana include hallucination and sedation. Although not as powerful as hallucinogens, cannabis products also distort one’s perception of reality. Some people even claim that they experience heightened senses. 


Hallucinogens typically distort one’s perception of reality. People who misuse this substance may feel heightened senses, causing them to see entities that don’t actually exist. Some common hallucinogens are PCP, LSD, and mescaline. 

Although not as commonly misused as alcohol, several adults admit to using these drugs. Statistics show that 7.1 million people over 12 have misused hallucinogens.


Inhalants include common household and industrial items like solvents, nitrites, gases, and aerosols. They all serve different purposes. However, misusing inhalants induces euphoric and sedating effects in some people. 

Most inhalants depress the central nervous system. For instance, inhaling certain aerosols and gasses slows down neurological signal transfer, which leads to a sedated state. 


People with substance use disorder misuse stimulants to speed up neurological signal transfers. This boost leads to several performance-enhancing effects. Although stimulants yield varying effects, they typically make one feel more alert and energetic. Some common stimulants include cocaine, crack, amphetamine, and meth.

Prescription Drugs

Pharmaceutical scientists designed prescription drugs to treat specific illnesses and conditions, so patients need professional guidance in using them. Consumers can only purchase prescription drugs if they have a doctor’s prescription and can range from antibiotics to narcotics. 

Although prescription drugs are meant for treatment, people with physical addiction misuse them and take advantage of their side effects. For example, hospitals typically use opioid-based pain killers for patients in critical conditions. However, those with substance use disorder can take opioids in the form of heroin and misuse their euphoric effects.

Also, another alarming fact is that a significant portion of people who misuse prescription drugs are below 18. Statistics show that 1% to 2% of 8th to 10th graders in the U.S. misuse OxyContin, Vicodin, Ritalin, and barbiturates per annum.

Co-Occurring Disorders

In physical addiction, co-occurring disorders refer to the coexistence of mental health issues and substance use disorders. Most patients undergoing medication for substance use disorders get dual diagnosed. For instance, a person in long-term recovery from the misuse of addictive substances and behaviors might experience the following conditions:

  • Anxiety
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Conduct disorder
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

The problem with co-occurring disorders is that the overlapping symptoms often mask each others’ effects, making them more challenging to diagnose. Some patients even refuse to believe that their addiction and mental health intertwine.

Frequently Asked Questions

Recovery comes with several challenges. People with substance use disorder often find themselves lost or confused on starting their self-medication journey. To give you insights into overcoming drug addiction, we compiled the most common questions we get about recovery.

What is the most serious form of addiction?

Drugs and alcohol are the most commonly misused substances in the U.S. Statistics show that 1 out of 10 Americans engage in unhealthy alcohol consumption, misuse prescription medication, or use illicit drugs. Moreover, 2 out of 3 people with substance use disorder also misuse alcohol.

What causes addiction to a person?

Genetic and environmental factors trigger different types of addiction. Early exposure to illegal substances, peer pressure, physical abuse, and parental misguidance can cause one to use/misuse addictive and psychoactive substances.

What does addiction do to your brain?

People with substance use disorder might find that it takes more to achieve the same level of “high” once their dopamine receptors start shutting down. Drug and alcohol addiction overwhelm the brain receptors — reducing dopamine levels. Research also indicates that abstaining from addictive substances and behaviors for just 12 months boosts dopamine proteins by up to 12%.

What is addictive behavior?

The definition of addictive behavior goes beyond illicit drugs and alcohol. Research on behavioral addictions states that any substance, activity, or entity that evokes an emotional or psychological response is addictive if misused. Generally, different types of addictions occur when harmless habits transform into needs.

Recovering from all types of addiction starts with acceptance. After acknowledging the problem, patients can begin researching the different addictions and learn more about medication. For effective recovery, seek support from medical professionals.

Overcoming active addiction is a lifelong process that requires patience, commitment, and discipline. Progress will not happen overnight. Overall, focus on understanding the psychological, mental, and emotional impacts of addiction so that you can manage your mental health more effectively.

If you’re interested in learning more about medication for substance use disorder, check out the rest of Radical Rehab’s resources for more information on overcoming drug and alcohol addiction.

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