The 5 Most Common Addictions

October 10, 2022

Addictions are neuropsychological disorders affecting hundreds of millions of Americans, and while addiction isn’t a new phenomenon, it has only been an area of research since the mid-21st century, which means that we are still learning more about it every year.

While most people only think of addiction when thinking of illegal drugs, addiction is any compulsive/repeated behavior that results in significant social, occupational, legal, or personal problems.

Basically, if you can’t stop doing it, and it’s making your life unmanageable, it’s probably some form of addiction.

Some addictions can cause issues in all of these areas of your life, but compulsive behavior only needs to affect one of these areas in order to be classified as an addiction.

Here are some of the most common addictions affecting people around the world.

1. Tobacco Addiction

Due to increased legislation and general public awareness, tobacco addictions have been steadily declining for decades, but there are still over 30 million Americans who smoke cigarettes and 10 million e-cigarette smokers, including approximately 2 million children.

Nicotine, the addictive chemical in tobacco, releases a variety of neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine. This chemical release is what makes people feel calm and relaxed when smoking.

Over time, your brain will develop more and more nicotine receptors and become increasingly dependent on nicotine for dopamine release. This is the main mechanism behind people’s addiction to the substance.

Prolonged use of this drug can negatively affect how neurons are formed and result in increased impulsivity, trouble concentrating, and learning difficulties.

And while overall nicotine use is going down, vapes and e-cigarettes have caused nicotine addiction in kids to skyrocket. According to the American Lung Association, nicotine use in high-school students increased by 1,733% from 2011 to 2019

2. Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol use disorder affects nearly 15 million people in America, with a disproportionate amount being adult males. 

While not everyone who uses alcohol regularly succumbs to addiction, alcohol is by far the most commonly used addictive substance on the market, with almost 70% of adults admitting to drinking alcohol at least once in the last year.

It’s important to know that one of the strongest risk factors for alcohol addiction is genetic. If someone in your family has or is suffering from alcohol use disorder, your chances of abuse are significantly higher than the average person.

Alcohol can negatively impact almost every aspect of your mind and body, and, over time, creates both physical and psychological dependences that can be fatal.

Alcohol acts as a sedative, which can cause you to lose consciousness and can suppress your ability to breathe. This creates a dangerous, and often fatal, combination.

Alcohol is thought to cause around 100,000 deaths per year between alcohol poisoning, car crashes, homicides, and a number of other alcohol-related accidents. This makes it the 3rd leading cause of preventable death. 

3. Gambling Addiction

Almost 10 million Americans have a gambling addiction. And, like alcohol, because it’s legal in many states, most people with gambling addictions do not believe their gambling is a problem.

To make things worse, compulsive gamblers almost always have a substance use disorder as well. One study found that gambling addicts had alcohol use disorders 75% of the time, drug use disorders 38% of the time, and nicotine addictions 60% of the time.

One possible connection between drug and gambling addictions is that people who suffer from substance abuse disorders have a harder time creating dopamine, which is why they need to participate in activities that can produce massive neurochemical rewards, such as gambling and sex.

Gambling addicts have the ability to register their names in a self-exclusion database to get them blacklisted from casinos across the nation. Once added, an addict's name is there for life, and any attempt to gamble at a casino could be met with a trespassing charge.

4. Drug Addiction

Drug abuse is one of the few addictions in America that has been steadily on the rise during the 21st century. This steady rise turned into a spike during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over 13% of Americans reported that they started using or increased substance abuse during the pandemic. During that time, drug overdoses spiked too, increasing over 30% to just under 100,000 drug-related overdoses in 2020. 75% of these came from prescription opioids.

Drug abuse has many causes, whether it be a way of coping with trauma or mental health issues, a prescription getting out of control, or just recreational use that went too far.

Nobody, no matter your age, status, or health, is immune from drug addiction, but there are certain factors that make some people more prone than others. Genetics and mental health are two of the biggest predictive elements for potential addicts.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance addiction, there are 12 Step programs all over the country that can help you beat it.

5. Food Addiction

Food addiction is the compulsive or uncontrollable urge to eat without any feelings related to hunger. The compulsive behavior may be triggered as a response to stress, sadness, or anger. It’s estimated that over 70 million Americans struggle with food addictions. 

While there is a correlation between obesity and food addiction, it’s important to note that not everyone who struggles with food addiction is obese, and not everyone who is obese struggles with food addiction.

It's estimated that only 1 in 3 people struggling with obesity also have a food addiction. 

Food addiction is thought to work in much the same manner as other addictions. People turn to sweet, salty, or sugary foods as a means of dopamine release and then become dependent on those substances for pleasure rather than sustenance.

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