What is Addiction?

Addiction is defined by the individual’s need to use drugs or alcohol despite negative consequences. This driving desire to keep using often includes an inability to control how much they use, social impairment, use in unsafe situations or environments, and a physical component such as increased tolerance and withdrawal.

Prior to 1944 and the foundation of the National Committee for Education on Alcoholism, addiction was thought of as a personal choice on behalf of the person using the substance. Marty Mann, founder of the National Committee for Education on Alcoholism (NCEA), believed alcoholism and addiction in general to be a disease. She believed that individuals who abused substances were sick and could be helped, and that helping these individuals was our public responsibility. It was this line of thought that many addiction prevention and recovery organizations based their founding principles around.

Stigma Digital Provider

What Should I Know About Opioid Addiction to Prevent Stigma?

Opioid use disorder is not a choice. It’s a disease that can be treated.
Many Americans incorrectly view opioid use disorder as a moral weakness or character flaw. In fact, it is a brain disease that can be treated.

Overcoming addiction takes more than willpower. Medicine can be a very effective part of the solution.
Stigma leads some people to believe that taking medicine for opioid use disorder is “replacing one drug for another” and “not real recovery.” In fact, people who take FDA-approved medicines like buprenorphine (Suboxone®), naltrexone (Vivitrol®), and methadone are more likely to stay in recovery and enjoy healthy, productive lives

Learn How to End Stigma in Columbia and Greene Counties

Dispelling Myths About Addiction

Effectively managing drug or alcohol addiction can be complicated by the stigma that still surrounds addiction. The stigma and the shame that is associated with drug or alcohol addiction often keeps individuals from seeking help, preferring to keep it a secret instead.

  • Icon for A person with an addiction to drugs or alcohol is “lost.”
    A person with an addiction to drugs or alcohol is “lost.”

    No, they are not. Recovery IS possible. There are many people living in recovery in our community and around the world.

  • Icon for Recovery sticks the first time.
    Recovery sticks the first time.

    Sadly, addiction can be a battle, and it often lands a lot of punches before it finally gets knocked out. Although recurrence of use is possible, the person that is unsuccessful—even a dozen times—is STILL capable of recovery. Don’t give up.

  • Icon for There is one way to go about getting into recovery.
    There is one way to go about getting into recovery.

    There are LOTS of ways to go about getting—and staying—in recovery. Also, there are lots of points of entry into the system of services and supports.

Substance Types

When it comes to recognizing drug or alcohol addiction and how best to treat it, it’s important to know the differences between each type of substance and the signs of their abuse.

Alcohol (AKA booze, hooch)

  • Liquids such as beer, liquor, and wine that an individual drinks to experience  intoxicating effects. Signs of abuse include slurred speech, lack of coordination, nausea, vomiting, and hangovers.


  • Cocaine/Crack Cocaine (AKA blow, coke, rock, snow) – A stimulant in the form of either white crystalline powder, chips, chunks or white rocks. It is either snorted, smoked or injected to experience its stimulating effect. Signs of abuse include nervous behavior, restlessness, bloody noses, and erratic, high energy.
  • Methamphetamine (AKA ice, chalk, crank, crystal, fire, meth, speed) – A powerful stimulant that is found in the form of white or slightly yellow crystal-like powder, or large rock-like chunks. It can be smoked, snorted, injected or swallowed to experience its effects. Signs of abuse include nervous physical activity, scabs and open sores, decreased appetite, and insomnia.
  • Nicotine – A highly addictive substance found in all tobacco products including e-cigarettes and vapes. When used during adolescence, nicotine can change the way the brain develops, which can affect learning, attention, and susceptibility to other addictions.
  • Vapes and E-Cigarettes – Often have extremely high concentrations of nicotine, making users particularly vulnerable to becoming addicted very quickly and easily. Many people do not realize the product they are using has nicotine in it, or they are unaware of the amount of nicotine the product contains. Over 60% of Juul users do not know that Juul pods always contain nicotine, even the flavored pods.
  • E-Liquids – Come in a variety of sweet and fruity flavors, which are especially appealing to kids, and give the impression the products are harmless. Some brands even advertise themselves as being “safer” or “healthy”; all claims that are totally unsubstantiated.


  • Marijuana (AKA blunt, dope, grass, herb, Maryjane, pot, reefer, skunk, weed) – A depressant that is found in the form of a green/grey mix of the dried flowers and leaves of Cannabis plant. Marijuana is typically smoked, brewed into tea, or imbued into food in order to experience its effects. Signs of abuse commonly include slowed thinking, delayed reaction time, impaired coordination, and paranoia.

Inhalants (AKA whippets, huffing, poppers, dusting)

  • Can fall in either the stimulant or depressant category, depending on the specific inhalant. They can take the form of paint thinners, glues, nail polish remover, whipped cream aerosol, air conditioner fluid, and many other substances. As the name suggests, they are inhaled in order to experience their effects. Signs of abuse include missing household cleaning products, and a drunk, dazed, or dizzy appearance.


  • Heroin (AKA black tar, dope, junk, smack) – A common street opioid that can look like white to dark brown powder or tar-like substance, can also look like a chip. Heroin is typically injected, but can also be smoked, free based, or snorted in order to experience its effects. Signs of abuse include track marks on the arms or legs, slowed and slurred speech, decreased appetite, nausea and vomiting, and lethargy.
  • Opiates/Pain Medications (AKA Fentanyl, Codeine, OxyContin/Oxy, Percocet/Perka, Vicodin/Vitamin V/Vika) – These opioids have the appearance of pills, tablets, transdermal patches, and table salt. They are typically crushed up and snorted or injected, swallowed, or licked off the patch to experience their effects. Signs of abuse include missing medicine bottles, missing medication, disrupted eating habits, dark circles under the eyes, and nodding off.

Benzodiazepines (AKA benzos, tranx, sleepers, Xanax, Valium, Klonopin)

  • An intoxicant that is often found in the form of tablets or capsules. They are usually crushed up and snorted or injected; or swallowed in order to experience their effects. Signs of abuse typically include drowsiness, impaired equilibrium, blurred vision, amnesia, unexpected hostility and irritability, disturbing dreams, lowered inhibitions, and impaired judgment.