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Addictive Behaviors & Dependence

Addiction is characterized by compulsive behaviors (or drug-seeking and use) even in the face of negative health consequences. Addictions can take many forms of dependence that lead to negative consequences for you, your relationships, and your work. Some persons with addictions might appear to function well but the addiction drives their behaviors and is intrusive in their lives. Addictions can start as behaviors that are mild but progress to taking over a person's life.  Some people have genetic predispositions towards addictions but that doesn't mean they will become an addict. Addictions can be managed with behavioral change, abstinence, and support from addiction specialists. Persons learn they have a problem with addiction when they can't stop the behavior or can't stop the behavior for very long. It becomes an obsession in their thoughts and drives them to do things or behave and act in ways that is uncharacteristic for them.

"SAMHSA  defines binge drinking as 5 or more alcoholic drinks for males or 4 or more alcoholic drinks for females on the same occasion (at the same time or within a couple of hours of each other) on at least 1 day in the past month."

Caffeine Dependence

Caffeine is a commonly used drug worldwide. Caffeine is a stimulant that works to improve alertness, wakefulness, and mood. WHO recognizes caffeine as a clinical disorder. Caffeine produces behavioral and physiological effects similar to other drugs of dependence. Excess caffeine causes weight gain due to increased adrenal stress which increases cortisol in the body. It is considered a powerful psychoactive compound. Withdrawl from it can result in headaches, aggitation, sluggishness, and irritation.

Nicotine Dependence

Nicotine is the chemical in tobacco that makes it hard to quit. Nicotine produces pleasing effects in your brain, but these effects are temporary. Nicotine increases the release of  neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) which help regulate mood and behavior.  One neurotransmitter, Dopamine, gets released in the Brain's reward center causing feelings of pleasure and improved mood. "Nicotine addiction is an extremely complex process that involves biological, psychological, behavioral, and cultural factors". Click photo to find out how to quit.

Energy Drink Reliance

Energy drinks are used to artificially increase alertness and sleeplessness.  It typically contains stimulant compounds, like caffeine, or other chemical additives, artificial colors, taurine, and amino acids, and tend are either high in sugar or artificial sweetners. Although marketed as providing mental and physical stimulation/clarity, they tax the body,  contributing to adrenal stress, weight gain, jitteriness, irritability,  sleep disruption, mood swings, high blood pressure, or irregular heart rate. They tend to be carbonated and may also contain sugar and may contain herbal extracts. They are highly addictive and can cause rebound fatigue if stopped suddenly.

Soda POP Dependence

A soft drinks are extremely popular beverage, high in processed sugars and artificial sweetners. Generally contains carbonated water, artificial colors, chemical preservatives, and  natural or artificial flavorings. It is generally high in sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice, and/or sugar substitutes, which are highly addictive. Many tend to contain caffeine.

Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol dependence is the inability to control drinking related tophysical and emotional dependence on it. Symptoms include urges to use alcohol and preoccupation with drinking. Persons affected by alcohol use disorder tend to struggle with managing their drinking, typically continue use  even when it causes problems. They often experience withdrawal symptoms when they quickly decrease or stop drinking.

Stimulant Misuse

Stimulants, both prescription and illicit, are some of the most commonly abused substances around. Stimulants are a drug that  increase the activity of the central nervous system; producing feelings of  alertness, euphoria and wellbeing. Examples include ADHD medication, methamphetamine, and cocaine. Abuse leads to risk of heart attack, stroke, extremely high blood pressure, and irregular heart rate. 

Anti-anxiety Abuse

Commonly abused anti-anxiety medications include Benzodiazepines which are referred to as minor tranquillizers, sedatives or hypnotics. They are the most widely prescribed psychoactive drugs in the world.  Lifestyle and environmental factors increase stress leading to risk for anxiety, sleep disorders. Contributing factors include work stress, financial difficulty, relationship struggles, and separation or death of loved ones. Anti-anxiety meds influence the central nervous system by suppressing its overactivity.

Opiates Abuse

Opiates are substances with active ingredients that are naturally derived from opium. Opioids are the class of drugs that include heroin, synthetic opioids (ie. fentanyl) and legally prescribed pain medications. These narcotics (natural and synthetic) bind to brain opioid receptors, depressing the central nervous system and relieving pain. Examples include morphine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, Oxycodone, Vicodin, and codeine. They are addictive and commonly lead to misuse, abuse and often death from overdose.

Screening Tools

Heavy Alcohol Use Defined

NIAAA defines heavy alcohol use as > 4 drinks on any day for men or >3 drinks for women.

SAMHSA defines heavy alcohol use as binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past month.


Medications to Decrease Cravings


Process of Recovery


Other Addiction Screens


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