Cite this article

NIDA. (2011, September 9). Word of the Day: Addiction. Retrieved from

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Sara Bellum
September 9 2011
Photo of the word addiction in the dictionary

Addiction is defined as, “A chronic, relapsing disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use—despite serious, even devastating consequences—and by long-lasting chemical changes in the brain.” When a person is addicted to a drug, finding and using that drug becomes the most important thing—more important than family, friends, school, sports, or money.

Not everyone will become addicted after they smoke a cigarette, drink alcohol, or take another drug, but even experimenting can raise your risk for addiction.

Have you heard about all these celebrities going in and out of rehab? That’s because addiction is a chronic (long-term) disease—like heart disease, hypertension, or diabetes—that can be managed with treatment. And even though a person may beat their addiction with treatment, they're always at risk of relapse.

If you think you or a friend may be addicted to a substance, talk to a family member, medical professional, or other trusted adult to get help. You can also check out the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Treatment Facility Locator for treatment services near you.

To learn more about addiction, check out NIDA’s publication, Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction.