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What is addiction?

What is addiction?

Substance use disorder (SUD), commonly known as addiction, is defined as a problematic pattern

Substance use disorder (SUD), commonly known as addiction, is defined as a problematic pattern of substance use that leads to clinically significant impairment or distress.

Addiction is a spectrum condition, meaning that it ranges in severity from mild, moderate, or severe. The severity is based on the number of clinical criteria a person meets. In order to confirm a diagnosis of SUD, a person must meet at least two of the following criteria in the last 12-months. Additional criteria indicates a more severe SUD: 

  1. Substances are often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
  2. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use.
  3. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance, use the substance, or recover from its effects.
  4. Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use the substance.
  5. Recurrent substance use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.
  6. Continued substance use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of the substance.
  7. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use.
  8. Recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous.
  9. Continued substance use despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance.
  10. Exhibits tolerance, meaning a need for higher amounts of opioids to achieve intoxication or desired effect, OR a lower effect with continued use of the same amount of a substance.
  11. Exhibits withdrawal. This is classified as three (or more) of the following symptoms developing within minutes to several days after stopping or reducing substance use that has been heavy or prolonged: mood changes that result in sadness, heaviness, irritability, or numbness; nausea or vomiting; muscle aches; watery eyes or runny nose; dilation of the pupils, hairs standing up, or sweating; diarrhea; yawning; fever; or inability to sleep.
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This article has been medically reviewed by
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Nurse Practitioner

Erin is a Nurse Practitioner with 8 years of experience in midwifery and women's health. She has spent the past 5 years specializing in the treatment of opioid and alcohol use disorders.

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