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Physical and/or psychological dependency on a psychoactive (mind-altering) substance (e.g., alcohol, narcotics, nicotine), defined as continued use despite knowing that the substance causes harm. Physical dependency results when the body builds up a tolerance to a drug, needing increasing doses to achieve the desired effects and to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Psychological dependency may have more to do with one's psychological makeup; some people may have a genetic tendency to addiction. The most common addictions are to alcohol (seealcoholism), barbiturates, tranquilizers, and amphetamines, as well as to the stimulants nicotine and caffeine. Initial treatment (detoxification) should be conducted with medical supervision. Individual and group psychotherapy are critical elements. Alcoholics Anonymous and similar support groups can increase the success rate of other efforts. The ability to admit addiction and the will to change are necessary first steps.
Variants of DRUG ADDICTION
drug addiction or chemical dependency
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on drug addiction, visit Britannica.com.