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Types of Substance Abuse and Behavioral Addictions

a woman struggles to break the cycle of substance abuse and behavioral addiction without professional help

Addiction types range from substances like cocaine and alcohol to behaviors such as gambling. Some addictions are very clear and diagnosable. Other types of substance abuse and behaviors have been identified by professionals as problematic, while others argue against it. Marijuana, which isn’t considered addictive in the traditional sense, can cause dependency.

Addiction is attributed to psychological and behavioral issues. These issues are characterized by cravings, inability to stop without help, and use regardless of problems in life. At Northpoint Recovery, we understand that the process of overcoming addiction and embracing recovery is a difficult one. That’s why we provide comprehensive substance abuse treatment programs to help individuals better manage their symptoms and develop healthy coping skills. Learn more about our Boise, ID programs by calling 888.296.8976 today

The Many Types of Addiction

Most people consider substances like alcohol or narcotics like cocaine when the word “addiction” comes up. Addiction has a larger spectrum than most people realize. There are substances and behavioral addictions that aren’t recognized by the public, including an addiction to getting plastic surgery, seeking out pain, or prescription sleeping pills. Even activities that are supposed to be good for you can have a negative impact on your life, such as working out or spirituality.

What All Types of Addiction Have in Common

Addiction takes over a person’s life and tears families apart, causing emotional trauma, financial problems, and the potential for physical problems. Not all addictions are the same, even though they get lumped together. Different types of addictions involve various physical, behavioral, or psychological involvement.

Addiction turns into a compulsive behavior which can include dependence on the substance or destructive behavior. Addiction of any kind offers a reward in that there is a moment of psychological or physical high. Addiction is progressive, becoming more severe over time. This is the case in every type of dependency.

Types of Substance Abuse

Substance abuse can lead to addiction, where users become dependent. The body creates a tolerance to the substance, causing users to need it more frequently and in higher doses. It can also build up psychological dependence where the user becomes moody or anxious when they don’t use it. When addiction starts to take hold in this way, an attempt to stop will cause withdrawal symptoms. A list of the types of substance abuse include:

  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Opioids
  • Other prescription drugs
  • Cocaine
  • Cannabis
  • Meth and other amphetamines
  • Hallucinogens
  • Inhalants
  • PCP (phencyclidine)

Types of Behavioral Addictions

A behavioral addiction involves an activity or behavior. Most of the behavioral activities you find in physical addiction are the same as what occurs with behavioral addictions. It is all based on a means of coping or escaping reality. The effects can include changes in mood, increased tolerance of the behavior, and spending less time doing social activities. Attempting to stop behavioral addiction activities can lead to withdrawal or relapse. Here are some examples of addictive behaviors:

  • Sex and pornography
  • Plastic surgery
  • Seeking out pain
  • Shopping
  • Spiritual obsession
  • Work
  • Exercise
  • Shopping

The Most Common Types of Addiction

Cannabis (Marijuana)

Cannabis is the most used illegal drug in the world. It is the most trafficked and grown as well. Marijuana use disorder can become an addiction in severe cases. When young people start using cannabis at the age of 18, they are more likely to exhibit types of addictive behaviors than an adult would. The disorder is associated with dependence, where you will feel withdrawal symptoms when you stop using marijuana. These symptoms include:

  • Moodiness
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Cravings
  • Restlessness
  • Physical discomfort


There is no mistaking that cocaine is highly addictive. It works by increasing the availability of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is associated with a major risk of dependence and abuse. When you abuse cocaine, it can have adverse effects such as psychiatric disorders, disease, and death.

Cocaine is a well-liked drug in the party scene due to its positive effects on your mood, the ability to motivate, as well as a quick boost of energy. This is what has made it so commonly used among both youth and adults. Cocaine can be administered by smoking, snorting, or taking it intravenously.


People struggling with opioids like heroin quickly exhibit types of addictive behaviors. Despite the fact heroin receives a lot of negative press for the high risks involved, it’s common for people to continue trying it and abusing it. Regardless of how you use heroin, it delivers a potent effect rapidly. The potential of overdose with heroin is highly likely due to the uneven strength of potency in batches. Many people will become addicted the very first time they try it.

Prescription opioids are meant to provide pain relief, but it has been found to be highly addictive. Doctors had originally prescribed drugs like oxycodone, morphine, and Percocet. Across the U.S., prescription opioid pain relievers are commonly used and abused.

Amphetamine-Type Stimulants (ATS)

ATS is a group of drugs that have an amphetamine-type derivative that makes the user hallucinate. Anything from MDMA to ephedrine falls under this category and has seen a rapid increase in use over recent years. It’s mainly younger people that start using ATS with the general belief that there is no risk in taking them. ATS is causing serious health problems, addiction, social issues, and tearing apart families.


Of all the behavioral addictions, gambling most resembles substance dependence. Professionals classify gambling as an addiction because studies have shown the same area of the brain lights up as in drug addiction. Gambling was once considered a part of the impulse control disorder spectrum but has since been moved to the behavioral addiction category. People struggling with gambling will receive the same kind of treatment as the person that is addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Video Games

If you can’t take your hands off your video game console, it is possible that you’re addicted to video games. Research shows that video game addiction is possible and that it’s primarily boys or men that fall into this category. One study revealed that 10% of people between the ages of eight and 18 are considered an out-of-control gamers. Addictions to video games can be treated with counseling.


While many psychologists and psychiatrists don’t seem to think there is a possibility for internet addiction, it has become a problem. Some people lose control of their ability to walk away from the web. Reality may fall away as one gets fixated on something internet related. If it has negative consequences at work or home, this can classify as addictive behavior. During the 2014 meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the association supported the idea that internet addiction is possible based on the brain changes that occur while using it. Studies are now saying that compulsive Internet use is affecting up to 15% of users.

Sex and Pornography

A healthy interest in sex with someone you love is normal, but when someone becomes intoxicated with risky sex, it becomes a problem. Sex addiction can cause obvious problems in a marriage. The person with the addiction will usually have sex in an unsafe situation because they can’t see past their needs. Those who are addicted to sex or pornography, may make poor choices that could include illegal activities while risking their health.

Tobacco Use

Smoking can quickly become addictive and causes major health problems. With every drag a person breathes in, they release over 4,000 toxins into their body. One of these toxins is nicotine, the addictive substance in cigarettes. Nicotine causes a high due to reaching pleasure centers in the brain, which only lasts a few minutes. Those who chew tobacco are also at risk of becoming addicted as nicotine goes into the blood and affects the brain in the same way.

Addiction Help at Northpoint Recovery

At our center in Boise, Idaho, we help people with addictions. This includes addictions to things like drugs, alcohol, gambling, and video games. With detox and inpatient options, you can find the help you need to get back on track.

Learn more by calling 888.296.8976 or contacting us online today.