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The Many Types of Substance and Behavioral Addictions

The Many Types of Substance and Behavioral Addictions

Various Types of Substance and Behavioral Addictions

Addiction types are varied and range from drugs like cocaine, substances like alcohol and behaviors such as gambling. Some addictions are very clear and specified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR). Other addictions have been identified by professionals as addictive while others argue against it. An example of this can be marijuana which isn’t considered as addictive in the traditional sense, but people can become dependent on it. The different types of addiction, including drug use, are found within the DSM-IV-TR but they are called substance abuse and substance dependency. While neither of these terms directly imply addiction, they do mean harm can occur while using certain substances. Addiction is attributed to psychological and behavioral issues. These issues are characterized by the cravings, inability to stop without help and regardless of problems in life due to drug use, use continues. The definition of addiction as cited from the American Society of Addiction Medicine is as follows: “Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry and is reflected in the individual pursuing reward and relief by substance use and other behaviors. The addiction is characterized by impairment in behavioral control, craving, inability to consistently abstain, and diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationship.” Other addictions include behavioral addictions which are classified by the fact they don’t involve a substance. This type of dependency can be an impulse control disorder or an addiction to inflicting pain on oneself. There are also behavioral addictions that don’t sit in the DSM-IV-TR spectrum. They are considered controversial and don’t meet the requirement of being an addiction. Substances

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 disorders take over a person’s life and tear families apart, causing emotional trauma, financial problems and can cause serious physical problems. Life savings can dwindle due to destructive behavior and financial debt caused by the addiction. Jobs are lost and careers, ruined. Addiction can create a sense of hopelessness where the person feels out of control. This process can cause severe depression and may lead to suicide. Not all addictions are the same, even though they get lumped together. Different types of addictions involve various physical, behavioral, or psychological involvement. Addictions all have similarities with each other but the criteria set them apart. The components that make up addiction are behavioral and psychological. Addicts use addiction as a way of coping, relieving stress, or a means of taking themselves out of reality. Addiction will turn 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 Addictions That are Related to Substances

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 get their “fix.” When addiction starts to take hold in this way an attempt to stop will cause withdrawal symptoms. A list of the substance use disorders in the DSM-IV.TR:

  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco (smoking cigarettes or using chewing tobacco)
  • Opioids like heroin or opioid prescription drugs
  • Other prescription drugs including; hypnotics, anxiolytics, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, and sedatives.
  • Cocaine
  • Cannabis
  • Meth and other amphetamines
  • Hallucinogens
  • Inhalants
  • PCP or Angel Dust (Phencyclidine)

Types of Behavioral Addictions

We often think of addiction as a substance based issue. It does make sense when you look at the statistics stating that 21.5 million Americans have problems with substance abuse. There is another type of addiction, however. It’s called behavioral addiction, and it’s classified by losing control and seeking out the experience regardless of consequence. You can exhibit addictive behaviors with sex, the internet, or even adrenaline sports like bungee jumping.  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, increasing 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
  • Eating disorders which can include bulimia or overeating
  • Seeking out pain
  • Shopping
  • Spiritual obsession
  • Work (being a workaholic)
  • Exercise


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. Data suggests that 30% of people who regularly use marijuana have some level of marijuana use disorder. 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, a decrease in appetite, cravings, restlessness, and possible physical discomfort. The dependence happens because the brain adapts to a certain amount of the drug by reducing endocannabinoid neurotransmitters. The classification of addiction is when you can’t stop using the drug even when it interferes with many parts of your life. Cannabis


There is no mistaking that cocaine is highly addictive. It works by increasing 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 the 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.

Opioids (Heroin and prescription pain killers)

Heroin quickly exhibits types of addictive behaviors that can cause one to lose everything they care about just for the sake of another hit. This is due to heroin’s highly addictive qualities. 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. Sadly, even more so since opioid abuse has skyrocketed. Opioids were once used to help heroin addicts abstain from using. Years later, the medical field realized the epidemic they had created, making it difficult for people to continue use. Heroin is now being used instead of prescription opioids that are costly and hard. 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 have 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 an abused. Opioids

ATS (Amphetamine-Type Stimulants)

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 type addictions, gambling most resembles a substance dependence. The APA classifies 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. A gambling addict will receive the same kind of treatment as the person that is addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Behavioral Food Addictions

The addiction to food has been a long-time argument among professionals. The question has been that while food can be an obsession, does that make it an addiction? A binge eating disorder is an actual problem and something of a mental dependency. Food disorders affects 3% of the American population with types of addictive behaviors that include eating to ease emotional issues. Those with food addictions will binge on food as a means of coping with life. They then feel guilty about it which perpetuates further eating. An illness like Bulimia causes the person to not only binge but also to throw up afterwards. There is no known cause for eating disorders, but it believed to be linked to emotional problems such as depression. food

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 boys or men that fall into this category. One study revealed that 1 in 10 people between the ages of 8 and 18 are considered an out of control “gamer.” Addictions for 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, 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. For those who are addicted to sex or pornography, they may make poor choices that could include illegal activities while risking their health. Professionals

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 the cigarette. It enters their blood and then into the brain, causing an increase in blood rate, respiration, and the heartbeat. Smoking temporarily inhibits the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin. 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. The various types of addiction are much bigger than just drugs and alcohol. Addiction is based on behaviors of those affected by the disease. While addiction and dependence on various substances and behaviors are a grey area at time, the effects are the same. True addictive behaviors include focusing all energy on getting the substance or performing the behavior. They fail to care about anything else which means they don’t meet the responsibilities of their life. For people that have an addiction, they will continue to use or display the behavior regardless of their losses.

View Sources:

NCBI Pub Med (2012 Apr 3) Behavioral Addiction versus Substance Addiction: Correspondence of Psychiatric and Psychological Views. Retrieved from, NCBI Pub Med (Revised July 2016) Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction. Retrieved from, U.S. National Library of Medicine (1994 [cited 2010 Mar 8) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Source Information. Retrieved from, World Health Organization on the topic “Amphetamine-type stimulants”. Retrieved from,