Abnormal Psychology: Mental Health and Mental Illness

Substance Abuse

What is addiction?

In general, the term addiction refers to a state of obsessive desire or craving for something or some activity, beyond the point of normal use and to the extent of causing harm. As early as 1964, the World Health Organization discouraged the use of the word “addiction” in a mental health context, stating that the word had become too colloquial and was not sufficiently precise. Consequently, the major diagnostic systems, DSM and ICD, diagnose substance abuse and dependence rather than addiction. Nonetheless, addiction remains a widely used term, within the field as well as the popular culture. While use of the word “addiction” generally refers to a chemical substance, such as heroin or cocaine, people also speak of behavioral addictions, such as compulsive gambling or addiction to sex. In fact, a new category of behavioral addictions is being considered for DSM-V.


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