Is Social Media a Drug?

Is Social Media a Drug?

Is Social Media a Drug?


The question “is social media a drug” is one we increasingly hear. We’re learning more about the effects of sites like Instagram and Facebook on our brains and mental health. These effects are often similar to how addictive drugs affect the brain. While social media isn’t a drug, there are similarities.

The effects of addiction to social media can compare to using a drug like cocaine as far as dopamine and how they affect your brain’s reward circuit.

There’s some debate about whether or not social website addiction should be a diagnosable behavioral addiction because of these similarities.

Currently, there isn’t an official diagnosis for addiction to social apps, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be eventually. Researchers have already drawn parallels between social media usage and individuals with substance use disorders. 


How Could Social Media Become An Addiction?

Social apps and websites are a way to connect with family and loved ones and perhaps find entertainment. As with other behavioral addictions, that can turn into something harmful. You might excessively, compulsively use social networking to the detriment of other parts of your life.

Some experts say as much as 10% of people in the U.S. could meet a social network addiction criteria. 

Others say that number could be much higher.

  • For social media users, it increases dopamine signaling in the brain. 
  • Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that associates with pleasure. 
  • You get a rush of dopamine after using these apps and sites, just like you would with an addictive drug like cocaine. 
  • Your brain identifies whatever triggered the dopamine as rewarding and something you should repeat.
  • You may feel even more of this dopamine spike if you get positive feedback. 
  • For example, if you post a picture and get a lot of likes, it can trigger even more dopamine than just using social apps or sites alone.
  • The positive feelings stemming from engaging with these apps and sites aren’t going to last forever. 
  • The brain’s engagement with positive reinforcement often occurs in other addictions.

Once those feelings from the dopamine go away, you’ll go back to whatever triggered them for more. In this case, it’s the platform you’re going back to.

Researchers at Harvard University found that the same parts of the brain light up when using social apps when taking an addictive substance.

Research teams find that when you get a notification, such as a mention or a like on a social platform, your brain gets a rush of dopamine. That dopamine then travels along reward pathways. You’re getting an immediate reward for little effort. Your brain eventually rewires itself because of this positive reinforcement. You’ll want to get more and more attention on social networking as your brain changes in response to exposure.

Our brain’s reward centers are also most active when talking about ourselves. We’re estimated to speak about ourselves 30-40% of the time in the real world. However, you may be talking or sharing about yourself 80% of the time on social platforms. You’re posting pictures of yourself, for example, that are then getting positive feedback.


When Does Social Media Become a Problem?

One of the first red flags you might identify that could show the effects of addiction to social media is when it’s a coping mechanism. If you or someone you love regularly turns to social media to deal with uncomfortable feelings like loneliness, depressive symptoms, or stress, this might indicate a problem.

Social media platforms can provide a continual stream of rewards you aren’t otherwise receiving in daily life, so you want to engage more.

That desire to engage increasingly with these sites can lead to problems in authentic relationships and declines in school or work performance. Some people find excessive use affects their mental and even their physical health.

The more people turn to apps to relieve hard feelings or as a coping mechanism, the more their dependence on them will grow.



Symptoms of a Social Media Addiction

Identifying behavioral addictions can be a little more complex than substance addictions in some cases. Some of the signs of a potential social media usage addiction can include:

  • Someone spends a lot of time thinking about social media platforms or planning to use them 
  • Increasing urges to use these platforms more and more despite negative consequences. 
  • Social media overuse to forget problems or deal with symptoms of mental disorders 
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut down on use, much like drug addicts experience. 
  • Restlessness or irritability can occur if the person can’t use social media apps for any reason, which can be similar to withdrawal symptoms seen with substance use disorders. 
  • Use is so excessive it’s creating negative outcomes at school or work. For example, academic performance may decline. 

Someone who can answer yes to three or more of the above questions could have a problematic relationship with social media and potentially addiction.


The Effects of Social Networking on Mental Health

Even if someone doesn’t necessarily meet the criteria for addiction-related to social sites, there are relationships between use and poor mental health or low self-esteem. When you use these sites too often, you’re more at risk of feeling lonely and isolated. 

  • You may find that you’re constantly comparing yourself to other people who have carefully curated their content to cultivate a specific image. 
  • You could feel depressed or jealous if you think your life isn’t as “good” as people’s lives on these sites.
  • Studies show that when you use social networking sites, you may believe other users are happier and more successful than in reality.
  • You may find you’re constantly comparing yourself to unrealistic images people create of their lives. 
  • These effects raise the risk of negative self-image and the development of depression and anxiety.


Effects On Young People 

Younger people tend to use these platforms more often and be more significantly affected by them in often negative ways. You can get help at an intensive outpatient facility.

  • Around 27% of children who spend three or more hours per day on networking sites show symptoms of poor mental health. 
  • The brains of young people are still developing, as are social skills. 
  • With habitual social networking engagement, young people’s social interaction skills may not develop the way they should.
  • Studies show among young people who heavily engage with these platforms; there are higher rates of negative body image and depression and lower empathy and compassion.
  • Social networking images that are filtered and appear perfect can contribute to disordered eating in young people. 
  • There’s also the risk of online bullying on these platforms. In the past, young people could escape from bullying at home. Now, they’re constantly bombarded with these negative behaviors.


Final Thoughts—Is Social Media a Drug?

While apps and websites aren’t drugs, many effects are very similar to highly addictive substances. If you’re the parent of a young person who’s struggling with social network sites or perhaps related mental health issues, please contact Anchored Tides Recovery by calling 866-600-7709. We can help you learn more about treatment programs that may be available.

Weight Loss From Drug Use

weight loss from drug use

weight loss from drug use

Weight loss from drug use is one of the more common symptoms or red flags that you may spot early on. Many drugs can contribute to reduced body weight. There are also multiple, specific ways they contribute to someone losing weight or body mass. 

On the other hand, some drugs may cause weight gain, but this tends to be a less common side effect of substance misuse.


What Drugs Make You Lose Weight?

Rapid weight loss is a sign of addiction because substances can, directly and indirectly, cause weight loss.

Some of the drugs that are most commonly associated with weight loss include:



Stimulants include methamphetamine, cocaine, and sometimes we can characterize MDMA, also known as Molly or ecstasy, in this category. 

  • Stimulants, including both prescription drugs and illicit drugs, suppress appetite. 
  • Stimulant drugs can also change how the body metabolizes fat and calories. For example, researchers believe cocaine affects how your body stores and processes fat.
  • Drugs like cocaine and other stimulants can also affect the central nervous system. These drugs speed up processes in the brain, dulling feelings of hunger.
  • Prescription medicines for ADHD like Adderall are also commonly associated with weight loss. 
  • Adderall is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. These are stimulants affecting brain chemicals.
  • Rarely, Adderall is prescribed off-label for weight loss in obese people. 

Crystal meth is one of the illegal drugs we most often think of as causing weight loss. 

  • Meth is a powerful stimulant. 
  • Crystal meth also has a significant potential for abuse and addiction. 
  • When someone abuses meth, they may have reduced appetite. 
  • The drug can cause them to lose fat and muscle and burn more calories. 
  • Indirectly, meth can contribute to weight loss by causing someone to stop taking care of themselves.
  • When a person uses meth, there’s excessive dopamine in their brain. Those high levels of dopamine can decrease food cravings. When you don’t have an appetite, you don’t even think about eating. Your brain doesn’t receive hunger messages.

Generally, stimulants also increase the number of calories your body burns. 

  • Stimulant drugs cause heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, body temperature, and wakefulness to go up. 
  • All of these are processes requiring energy. 
  • When you use stimulants, and these processes speed up, you may burn calories faster.
  • People who use stimulants can also stay awake sometimes for days at a time. 
  • You burn more calories when you’re awake compared to being asleep.



While weight loss isn’t as commonly associated with opioids as with stimulants, it’s still possible.

Opioids include heroin and prescription pain medicines like oxycodone and hydrocodone. Opioids slow the central nervous system down, contributing to weight gain.

Symptoms of opioids can also include nausea and vomiting, which can cause weight loss.



Excessive alcohol use can damage your entire body. Some people may gain weight if they use alcohol excessively, but weight loss can occur for other people. One reason alcohol contributes to weight loss is that it damages your internal organs, intestines, and stomach lining.

When these parts of your body are impaired, it can impact your ability to absorb nutrients. Other side effects of alcoholism contribute to weight loss, including vomiting and diarrhea. 

Drinking excessively can harm the liver’s ability to process toxins, causing damage to the organ or potential failure. Liver problems can lead to GI issues and nausea, leading to weight loss.


Indirect Causes of Weight Loss From Drug Use

While stimulants can physiologically affect the body and contribute to weight loss, drug and alcohol abuse can cause weight loss for less direct reasons. For example, someone who’s using drugs or alcohol may have a change in their lifestyle.

They may stop caring about ensuring they’re eating well or getting the proper nutrients. When they have an addiction, the focus of someone’s life is usually on the drug or alcohol. They don’t care as much about eating at the proper times. Eating may not be a priority at all, let alone eating nutritious foods. 

Someone who’s in an active addiction doesn’t prioritize self-care, such as getting regular exercise or eating a healthy diet. 

weight loss from drug use

Other Signs of Drug Use or Addiction

Along with weight loss from drug use, there are other signs you may notice in someone who’s using drugs or alcohol.

Substance use disorders can change how someone looks, acts, and feels. The symptoms of drug use can be behavioral, physical, and psychological.


Physical Signs of Addiction

While weight loss is one we often think about first, other physical signs of addiction include:

  • Runny nose
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Problems with coordination
  • Lethargy
  • Chemical odors coming from the breath or clothes
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Eyes that are red or watery
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Jaw clenching
  • Problems falling asleep
  • Irregular sleep habits
  • Skin marks
  • Lack of personal hygiene

Behavioral Symptoms of Addiction

  • Changes in hobbies or normal activities
  • Changes in friend groups or social circles
  • Less participation in family events
  • Declining performance at school or work
  • Lying or deceit
  • Legal problems
  • Secretive behavior
  • Isolation
  • Lack of care about responsibilities
  • Financial problems

Psychological Signs of a Substance Use Disorder

  • Personality changes
  • Mental illness symptoms, such as anxiety or depression
  • Paranoia
  • Fear
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Negative self-image
  • Poor outlook on life
  • Emotional withdrawal
  • Loss of motivation
  • Apathy or lack of interest


What If You Notice the Red Flags of Substance Abuse?

If you notice the signs of substance abuse in your teen, first, remember that substance abuse is a mental illness and a chronic disease. Changes occur in the brain, making it difficult to stop. As a parent, if you believe your teen could be struggling with drugs or alcohol, it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about the disease of addiction before you talk to them.

  • From there, you want to ensure you approach the conversation in a direct but non-judgmental way. 
  • Let your teen know that you love them, and you’re there to help.
  • You can start to learn more about what they’re going through if they’re willing to open up and talk to you. 
  • You can begin to understand their situation, which is important as a parent.
  • Before you talk to your teen about addiction, you should make sure you’re ready and that you’ve processed your own feelings. You don’t want to come at them with anger because this will push them away.
  • When you talk to your teen about potential treatment, present it as an opportunity for them to get help and feel better rather than as a punishment.

If you’d like to learn more about teen addiction or treatment options, the Anchored Tides Recovery team is here and available to help; just call 866-600-7709.

How Long Have Drugs Been Around?

how long have drugs been around

how long have drugs been around

We tend to look at human drug use as a relatively modern concept. In reality, drugs for recreational purposes have been happening since ancient times. Some drugs have a shorter history, but drug addiction isn’t a new concept or modern phenomenon.

We see throughout history that currently, illegal drugs were often mainstream medicines and therapeutic agents among having other uses. 

Recreational Drug Use Throughout History

How long have drugs been around is a difficult question to answer in a specific sense. We know that the desire for psychoactive substances goes back to some of our earliest available human records.

  • There are a couple of main ways in ancient history we see psychoactive substances. 
  • These scenarios include in religious ceremonies and by healers as medicine. 
  • The third primary way throughout history we’ve seen drug use is by the general population in a way that’s seen as socially acceptable. Alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine are examples of this.

By the 17th century, there were records of addiction. There has long been debate on topics related to addiction that we continue to hear today. For example, throughout history, there are examples of conversations about whether addiction treatment should be moral or medical and whether substances cause addiction.

Below are some of the many examples of drug and alcohol use in history. 

  • For at least 4000 years, psychoactive mushrooms have been used in Central Asian religious ceremonies. 
  • Indigenous people in the southwestern U.S. and pre-Columbia Mexico used peyote to create mental states of introspection. 
  • As far back as the 9th century, there’s evidence of the medicinal use of opium. 
  • Opium is in Homer’s Odyssey. In that story, Helen of Troy received the potion to treat Greek warriors, dulling their pain and helping them forget their sorrows.
  • By the 19th-century, opium tinctures were widespread medically for everything from insomnia to heart diseases.
  • In Islam, there is a cultural history of the use of cannabis. 
  • According to Christian and Jewish tradition, Noah’s first thing after emerging from the ark was to plant a vineyard. He then had some of the wine is produced, becoming drunk.
  • Historians believe Alexander the Great’s death resulted from chronic alcohol use.
  • Aristotle spoke about alcohol withdrawal and theorized drinking during pregnancy could be harmful. 
  • Celsus, a Roman physician, said dependence on intoxicating drinks was a disease.

The History of Drugs in America

In the United States, drug abuse and addiction have been long-standing societal problems for at least a century. Many of the drugs we know as dangerous and addictive today started as prescription and over-the-counter medicines.


One of the oldest drugs in U.S. history is marijuana. 

  • Jamestown settlers grew marijuana as far back as 1600, and before the Civil War, it was one of the country’s major revenue sources. 
  • In the 19th century, marijuana plantations were thriving. 
  • Through the mid-1930s, marijuana was medicinal, available in general stores and pharmacies.
  • In the 1930s, studies started to show that marijuana could be contributing to crime and violence, so in 1937 it was banned. 
  • In the 1960s, the government introduced harsh penalties, but now the public perception is again shifting as states are legalizing it for medicinal and recreational use.


Methamphetamine was introduced for medical use in the 1920s. While these are now illicit drugs, they were used to raise blood pressure and stimulate the central nervous system.

  • Soldiers in World War II were often given methamphetamine to help them feel energetic and improve their mood. 
  • After the war, it was used as a way to combat depression.
  • In the 1930s, amphetamine became available as an over-the-counter drug.
  • By the 1960s, it was illicitly being used, particularly by people injecting it. 
  • In the 1990s was the emergence of crystal meth.


The medical world-recognized cocaine in the late 1800s. 

  • In 1884, Sigmund Freud published Uber Coca, praising cocaine.
  • In 1886, the Coca-Cola product started marketing a product made from coca leaves native to South America. 
  • There were estimated hundreds of thousands of cocaine addicts in the U.S. by 1902. 
  • By 1982, the use of the stimulant peaked, and there were an estimated 10.4 million users.


Crack cocaine is a form of cocaine. 

  • In big cities in North America, like Los Angeles and New York, crack cocaine started to appear in the mid-1980s. 
  • Cocaine was an expensive drug, while crack was cheaper. 
  • Crack became associated with poorer neighborhoods.
  • The U.S. federal government started imposing stricter penalties for crack than cocaine, which many feel had roots in racism and continues in criminal justice today.


Opiates were popular in the U.S. through the 19th century, especially among middle-class and wealthy women. Doctors prescribed tonics to women containing opiates to cure “female problems.”

  • Chinese laborers who came to the U.S. in the 1850s and 1860s introduced the idea of smoking opium.
  • Morphine was created in 1803 and was a pain reliever during the American Civil War, which led to one of the country’s first waves of opiate addiction.
  • The second wave of opiate addiction occurred in the 1930s and 40s, related to the Harlem jazz scene and then in the 1950s as part of the beatnik subculture.
  • Heroin use during the Vietnam War became common among soldiers. 
  • Heroin use went up through the 1990s. 
  • We’re continuing to deal with the fallout of the opioid epidemic, including infectious diseases and overdose deaths from narcotic drugs. 

how long have drugs been around

History of Addiction Treatment

Just as the use of drugs and their applications have changed over the years, so has treatment for substance abuse and addiction.

  • There is evidence that Native American tribes used healing practices to help with alcoholism and addictive drugs. 
  • By 1784, Benjamin Rush argued that excessive alcohol use was a public health problem.
  • In 1864, the New York State Inebriate Asylum opened under Dr. Joseph Edward Turner. The center was the first medically monitored addiction treatment center in the country. This was the first rehab center for alcohol.
  • By the 1920s, morphine maintenance clinics were in communities around the country.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous was formed in 1935, and by the early 1950s, membership in the 12-step group surpassed 90,000.

Final Thoughts—How Long Have Drugs Been Around?

Drugs have arguably been around throughout human history. Drugs and alcohol are in records dating back before the 16th century even—many of what we now categorize as illicit drugs were therapeutic agents in history.

We now know so much more than we once did about addiction, however, as well as treatment.

For example, we’ve learned in the past few decades that addiction is a disease requiring proper, evidence-based treatment. Organizations like the National Institute on Drug Abuse continue to learn more about drug addiction and how it occurs, guiding optimal therapies. 

If you’d like to learn more about addiction treatment, please reach out to the Anchored Tides Recovery team today by calling 866-600-7709.

Everything You Need to Know About Teenage Addictions

teenage addictions

teenage addictions

While, as parents, we don’t necessarily want to consider it, substance abuse in youth is highly prevalent. Many people who struggle with addiction as adults started using substances in their teen years. Teen drug and alcohol abuse not only puts young people at a greater risk of later addiction. Using drugs and alcohol at an early age increases the risk of mental and physical health disorders, legal troubles, and other problems.

Despite the risks of substance abuse in youth, teens continue to experiment with drugs and alcohol. During the teen years, there are a number of reasons for this. These reasons include peer pressure and the desire to fit in, as well as a lack of other healthy coping mechanisms or an undiagnosed mental health disorder. 

Teens, including middle and high school students, also tend to have a hard time understanding the longer-term consequences of their actions.

The Effects of Teenage Substance Use

When teens use an illicit drug or alcohol, the effects on their health and, in particular, their brains can be more significant than they are on older people. Teens are going through rapid periods of mental, intellectual, and physical growth. 

These years of their lives are pivotal for their development. The effects of substances can be detrimental or even devastating during periods of development.

A teenager’s brain is developing to work more effectively. These years of healthy development are integral to cognitive function in adulthood. Drugs and alcohol can stop this healthy development.

Specific effects of substance abuse on adolescent brain development include:

  • Teen substance abuse can impact neurotransmitters and damage connections in the brain.
  • Reduced ability to feel and experience a pleasure.
  • Memory problems.
  • Lower learning potential.
  • Unhealthy habits can become an ingrained part of the brain’s circuits.
  • When someone starts drinking or using drugs at an earlier age, they’re more likely to develop alcohol dependence or a substance use disorder 

There are physical effects on teen health as well. For example, using drugs or alcohol can delay puberty or negatively affect the reproductive system. Drug and alcohol use can also create a higher risk of adulthood health problems like high blood pressure and heart disease.

Substance abuse in young people affects reasoning and decision-making. This raises the risk of unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, car accidents, and criminal records. These effects can affect a young person for the rest of their life.

What Substances Do Teens Most Commonly Use?

Some of the things a teen is most likely to use include:

  • Alcohol is the most frequently abused substance by teens, according to the Mental Health Services Administration. There’s a sense of social acceptability regarding alcohol, and there’s also the idea that it’s harmless. Teens are especially likely to binge drink, maybe because they don’t have a fully developed sense of impulse control regarding risky behavior. Heavy drinking can lead to alcohol addiction early on in life. 
  • As many states are legalizing marijuana, it’s becoming seen as socially acceptable as alcohol. Many young people, as well as adults, think marijuana is altogether harmless. Marijuana use frequently begins in adolescence, and more than 20% of teens say they’ve used it at least once in the past month.
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications: Narcotic pain relievers like opioids and benzodiazepines such as Xanax are commonly abused among young people. These are often considered teenage party drugs, and they’re highly accessible because of family members who have prescriptions. Prescription medicines are not only a source of teenage addictions, but they also come with a high risk of overdose. Around 40% of teens who say they’ve misused a prescription drug reported getting it from their parent’s medicine cabinet. Dextromethorphan or DXM is a cough suppressant available over the counter that’s frequently abused.
  • Methamphetamines such as Adderall and Ritalin have misused prescription drugs that are legitimately prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). When these drugs are misused, they can increase alertness, concentration, and feelings of well-being, temporarily.
  • Spice and K2 are also known as synthetic marijuana. The ingredients used to make synthetic marijuana are often banned, but then producers find ways around that by changing the chemicals they use. K2 is very accessible to teens as a result.

teenage addictions

Signs of Substance Abuse in Youth

The signs of youth addicted to drugs and alcohol can vary depending on the substance, but sometimes there are generally red flags parents and loved ones might watch for.

In general, while teens are notoriously moody, if you notice significant changes in behavior, it could signify the development of teenage addictions. For example, when a teen becomes withdrawn, defensive or hostile, or is frequently tired or more energetic than normal, these can all be red flags of drug abuse or drug addictions. 

Other possible signs of substance abuse in teens include changes in friend groups, not caring about appearance, and declining school performance. Skipping school, loss of interest in hobbies or activities, and changes in eating or sleeping habits may also be signs of an issue.

Physical signs of substance abuse may include frequent nosebleeds, watery eyes, tremors, and shakiness.

Some teens may have risk factors for substance abuse or underage drinking. 

These include:

  • A family history of substance abuse. While it’s not the only factor nor does it mean a young person will also become addicted, if there is a family history of the use of drugs or alcohol it can increase the likelihood of developing an addiction. First-degree relatives of alcoholics, for example, have a risk that’s eight times higher of developing alcoholism than people without the family link.
  • We talked about age above, and the younger someone is when they start using drugs or alcohol, the more likely an addiction is to develop.
  • The environment can be a risk factor for substance abuse in youth. Environmental factors might include a peer group that uses alcohol, family relationships, or other situations where there’s the presence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Psychiatric disorders can increase the risk of adolescent alcohol or drug use. Researchers aren’t sure which comes first in some cases. According to medical professionals, mental illness can predispose you to addiction because both affect the same circuits. There’s also the risk of adolescent substance abuse if a young person tries to self-medicate the symptoms of a psychiatric disorder with illegal drugs or heavy alcohol use. 

Teens can learn both healthy and unhealthy behaviors from their parents and the people around them. When you model healthy behaviors for your teen, then it can become a protective factor to combat the risk factors of substance use.

Don’t Minimize the Problem of Adolescent Drug Abuse 

If you spot early warning signs, be careful not to minimize them. Sometimes parents will want to brush it off as just using teenage party drugs or something all teens do. You might view drug or alcohol use as a phase of experimentation. You could find yourself rationalizing these behaviors, contributing to a worsening teen addiction problem. 

If you deal with the situation head-on when you notice warning signs, you can help your teen avoid full-blown addiction or other problems that arise from using drugs or alcohol.

If you’re a parent of a teen and you’re concerned substances could be an issue, please contact Anchored Tides Recovery by calling 866-600-7709. It’s never too early to intervene in these situations, and it can be life-saving for your teen.

America’s War On Drugs: Did It Work?

War on Drugs

War on Drugs


The government used the War on Drugs for decades as a strategy to reduce the drug trade and use consequences. Unfortunately, from the perspective of many, the war on drugs is a failure. Along with not working to curb substance abuse rates, some critics feel it’s contributed to mass incarceration and racial disparities in the prosecution of drug crimes. 


How Did the War on Drugs Start?

The War on Drugs was a government-guided initiative to stop the use of illegal drugs and their trade and distribution. The primary way of doing this was through increased criminal penalties for users and dealers.

  • Early laws date back to the 1800s criminalizing drug use, but this didn’t ramp up to what we currently know it to be until the 1970s.
  • President Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substance Act into law in 1970.
  • The CSA outlines five schedules. These schedules classify drugs based on their abuse potential and their medical uses.
  • A Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act is the most dangerous, at least according to the federal government. 
  • A Schedule 1 drug is one that the government says has a high addiction risk with no major medical application. Interestingly, marijuana is still Schedule 1 federally, despite many states legalizing it. 
  • Also, Schedule 1 is heroin, the dissociative drug ecstasy, and LSD.
  • In 1971, then-President Nixon officially declared there was a war against drugs. Nixon said drug abuse was the number one public enemy at the declaration. Combative, war imagery was often used, such as the term drug czar. 
  • As part of his efforts, Nixon increased federal funding for drug-control agencies. There was a call for strict measures, including mandatory prison sentences for drug crimes.
  • Night after night, on the evening news, people were bombarded with words and images about the drug war. 
  • Nixon created the Special Act Office for Drug Abuse Prevention at the time. 
  • In 1973, Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA is a police force dedicated exclusively to illegal drug use and smuggling in the U.S. There are thousands of agents, and the DEA has a budget in the billions of dollars.

In 1994, John Ehrlichman, who served as Nixon’s domestic policy chief, indicated the War on Drugs was primarily a means for the president to stay in office and appeal to his base while targeting his political enemies. 

Ehrlichman explained during a magazine interview that the Nixon campaign saw itself as having two enemies—black people, especially African-American men, and the left fighting against the war.

Many people criticize even the current drug laws, citing their racial motivations that continue to affect communities of color. 

In a quote, Ehrlichman said the administration couldn’t make it illegal to be people of color or anti-war hippies with marijuana. Hence, they wanted the public to associate heroin and marijuana with those groups of people instead.

Shockingly, Ehrlichman said because of the declaration of war with drugs as the enemy; the government could arrest community leaders, raid their property and break up meetings. He said the administration knew even when they started the policies, they were lying about drugs.


Jimmy Carter’s Election

In the mid-1970s, rhetoric about criminalizing drugs cooled off. Between1973 and 1977, 11 states decriminalized marijuana possession. 

In 1977, Jimmy Carter became president after campaigning to decriminalize marijuana. 

During Carter’s first year in office, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to decriminalize up to an ounce of marijuana.


The 1980s and “Just Say No To Drugs”

President Ronald Reagan came into office in the 1980s, bringing with him an expansion of Nixon’s drug policies. First Lady Nancy Reagan launched the “Just Say No” campaign, which was meant to showcase the risks of drugs.

Reagan put intense focus on passing very stringent penalties for drug crimes.

The rates of incarceration for nonviolent drug crimes soared.

In 1986, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act was passed, establishing mandatory minimum prison sentences for some drug crimes. 

Long after and to this day, it’s criticized as being racist. The legislation gave longer prison terms for offenses involving crack cocaine compared to powder cocaine. Crack cocaine use was predominantly associated with black people and cocaine with white people.

Five grams of crack led to an automatic sentence of five years, while it would take 500 grams of powder for the same sentence.



Where Do We Stand Now?

Over the years, public support for the concept of severe criminalization of drugs has declined.

Between 2009 and 2013, 40 states reduced their drug-related penalties and shortened minimum sentences. 

The passage of the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010 changed the difference in sentencing from crimes related to crack versus powder cocaine.


Did the War on Drugs Succeed?

There are no indicators that show any of the harsh programs against legal drugs are a success.

Eleven years ago, in 2010, NBC wrote the drug war met no goals.

We continue to see the widespread use of illegal drugs, as well as death and destruction as a result. The prison population swelled due to the war on drugs, filling even with people guilty of recreational drug use only. 

Now, more than a decade after NBC wrote there was no successful metric with the war rhetoric, people continue to be in jail for non-violent offenses.

The Justice Department estimates a price tag of $215 billion a year due to drug addiction in the U.S. The illicit drug industry brings in $320 billion annually. Ten percent of the economy in Mexico is from drug smuggling.

When Nixon initially started launching programs against drugs, to be fair, most didn’t see people using drugs as needing help or interventions. Drug users were seen by most as displaying violent behavior or being destructive to communities. Society knew a lot less about the underlying elements of addiction. 


The Problem with the Punishment Model

The entire theoretical framework of the war against drugs is built on a model of punishment, zero tolerance, and being hard on crime. 

Incarceration is the main form of deterring people from using drugs in a punishment model. When people go to state or federal prison, they’re very rarely given treatment or behavioral therapies for the addiction that landed them there, even currently, according to drug policy experts. 

Rather than taking a punishment approach, many policymakers and individuals now favor the concept of drug addiction as a public health policy, not a criminal one. The long-term effects of this policy on illegal drugs and drug possession may be beneficial, but it’s going to take time to get there. 

Despite changing perceptions and attitudes, there’s still inevitably a stigma that keeps too many people from getting help for a disease. While we’ve made progress since the 1970s in some ways, we also tend to see people with substance use disorders as somehow being morally weak or corrupt or perhaps lacking self-control.

By 2014, Pew Research Center found that most Americans prefer the government to treat people who use drugs rather than prosecute them.

Many people also criticize the marijuana legalization happening all over the country even though there are still people in jail for offenses related to the drug years ago. Entrepreneurs are becoming wealthy because of the growing marijuana industry, while others remain behind bars for minor crimes. 


The Future of How We View Drug Use in America

In 2016 during the presidential campaign, most candidates from both parties spoke about being smarter in the approach to combat drugs.

Now, rather than an epidemic of crack cocaine, there is an epidemic of opioid painkillers. In 2020 during the pandemic, the U.S. saw soaring overdose death rates, often due to opioids.

Synthetic opioids, like a type of drug called fentanyl, are especially prevalent and deadly. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the black market for these drugs is massive, coming from Latin America and Central America and then over the border, and China and other countries. 

The president of Mexico at one point said if the United States wants to stop the flow of substances over the border, Americans will have to do something about their insatiable desire for dangerous drugs. 

The real balance in the coming years has to be addressing the very real harm of drugs but doing so in a more productive way. Racial elements have to be removed from these policies and rhetoric as well.

The hope is that as we learn more about the science and biology of addiction through modern research, we can also continue to break down the sense of stigma many feel, which often stems back to the War on Drugs policies of the 1970s and 80s.

To learn more about substance abuse, or women only outpatient addiction treatment, call the team at Anchored Tides Recovery at 866-600-7709

Physical and Mental Long-Term Side Effects of COVID-19

long term side effects of covid 19

long term side effects of covid 19


In March 2020, life and the world as we know it changed, leading to many long-term side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. These side effects are physical, including the potential for long-haul COVID to develop. Perhaps for some people, even more, damaging are the long-term effects on mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak. 


Long-Term Effects of COVID Infection

Most people who have COVID get better in a few weeks. Some people, however, will experience long-term conditions related to the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes this as post-COVID conditions.

Post-COVID conditions are a range of new, ongoing, or returning health problems you experience four or more weeks after initial COVID-19 infections. Even if you didn’t have symptoms or had very mild symptoms during an infection, you could still develop a post-COVID condition.

Long-term coronavirus disease symptoms can present differently and for varying lengths of time. 

According to the CDC, some people experience different new symptoms lasting weeks or months after being infected, causing COVID-19. These possible long-term symptoms aren’t exclusive to people who were severely sick. 

These symptoms can include:

  • Problems breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Heart palpitations
  • Pins-and-needles sensation
  • Diarrhea
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Lightheadedness
  • Changes in mood
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • General chest pain
  • Changes in periods
  • Alterations in smell or taste

While certain risk factors can make you more likely to have serious COVID-19, such as obesity or high blood pressure, there aren’t the same links to developing long-term problems. Doctors don’t know why some people deal with long-term effects while others don’t follow infection.


Multiorgan Effects

The CDC also has a category describing multiorgan effects of COVID and the development of autoimmune conditions. Autoimmune conditions occur when your immune system mistakenly attacks your healthy cells, leading to inflammation.


Symptoms in Teens and Children

Long-haul COVID is even less understood in teens and children than in adults, but complications are possible. Lingering COVID symptoms in younger people tend to include depression, fatigue, and shortness of breath.

Heart inflammation is another potential concern, especially in younger people.


Effects Following Severe Illness or Hospitalization

If you have COVID-19 and you’re hospitalized, you can experience severe fatigue and weakness as you recover. This is common for hospitalizations following any lung-related illness.

There’s also post-intensive care syndrome (PIICS). PICS is a health effect that starts in an intensive care unit (ICU). The symptoms remain even after you return home.

PICS can include problems with judgment and thinking, post-traumatic stress disorder, and severe weakness.


Neurological Complications

A fairly large portion of people who recover from COVID-19 disease goes on to report experiencing neurological complications like brain fog or confusion.

According to doctors, there are different possible treatments for these symptoms but not necessarily cures because we don’t yet fully understand the underlying causes.

For example, for neurological symptoms, available treatments may include medication, physical therapy, and psychotherapy for patients struggling with depression or anxiety or similar mental health concerns.


Cardiovascular Problems

There are currently several trials to understand more about the long-term effects of COVID on the heart. Around one-third of patients hospitalized with the virus have evidence in blood tests of heart injury.

Doctors think the heart damage comes from inflammation the viral infection triggers. That can lead to long-term heart problems, including heart attacks and abnormal heart rhythms.


Lung-Related Complications

We talked about this above, but various long-term lung complications can occur. Some people have problems breathing that don’t seem to get better. This problem may be due to blood clots causing scarring in the lungs. The scarring can then impact blood flow and reduce lung capacity.


Sense of Smell

One of the most commonly seen short- and long-term effects of the viral illness is loss of smell.

For this, often health care providers recommend olfactory training. Olfactory training requires you to smell different things in the morning and evening for several months. The goal is to stimulate your olfactory or smell nerves so they can regenerate.



Mental Health During COVID-19

The effects of the virus itself and infection aren’t the only long-term side effects of COVID-19. The mental health effects are proving to be pervasive and damaging. Even if you haven’t been directly affected by the virus itself or haven’t known anyone who’s gotten sick or died, you may still be struggling with mental health symptoms.

The pandemic has created stress and anxiety for many people, leading to emotional health issues and mental health disorders long-lasting without treatment. 

Lockdowns led to isolation and financial worries. There are general health-related worries, so many people are experiencing. There are also fears that many people have specific to the virus, like the worry they or their loved ones will become seriously sick.

Based on history, health care providers say we know public health crises have a lasting impact on mental health.

Traumatic experiences like a pandemic are associated with higher post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and substance use rates.

National surveys are starting to show the reality of how serious the mental health effects are. There is also a reduction in how many people seek treatment for substance use disorders and co-occurring mental illnesses. Those increased rates of substance use paired with less treatment initiation contribute to record high levels of overdose deaths.


Loss of Coping Mechanisms

Due to the pandemic, many people have lost a connection to their support networks and coping mechanisms. For example, maybe socializing was at one point a coping mechanism for many people, but now they’re worried about doing that.

Many people are still working from home, which reduces in-office social interaction, furthering the risks of isolation and mental health problems.

Maintaining a schedule can also be challenging if you are working from home or spending more time at home. Having a schedule is one form of a coping mechanism or protective factor against mental health symptoms and substance use disorders.

People continue to feel uncertain and out of control, worsening mental health symptoms.


What Can You Do?

Knowing that you aren’t alone if you’re personally experiencing long-term physical or mental symptoms stemming from COVID-19.

For physical symptoms, you should speak to your doctor. They may have recommendations to help you since so many people are going through them right now.

If you’re having symptoms of a new or worsening mental health or substance use disorder, call 866-600-7709 and talk to a team member of Anchored Tides Recovery. Again, many people are in the same situation as you, but you can take steps to get treatment.

Stigmas of Mental Health and Addiction

Mental Health and Addiction

Mental Health and Addiction


The stigmas of mental health and addiction are entirely unwarranted, based on what we know scientifically about both. There was a time when we knew little about mental health disorders or addiction. Due to that lack of knowledge, there was often a misconception that you were weak or lacked morals if you were experiencing these conditions.

Unfortunately, those concepts were also associated with many mental health conditions and addiction. These misconceptions stopped society’s progress in understanding these are diseases. As with other chronic diseases, mental health disorders require evidence-based treatment.

When you learn more about substance use disorder, it can help you break down the stigmas you may personally feel still exist. Breaking down stigmas on an individual level can help you realize it’s okay to seek help. 

If you aren’t personally struggling with addiction or behavior disorders. Still, your loved one is, you can be a more effective support system for them when you learn more about the disease of addiction or a mental illness.


Why Do Stigmas Exist?

Chemical dependency or an addiction to substances is a chronic brain disease. When you have a substance abuse disorder, your brain compels you to seek out and use a substance.

  • From the early 1800s, we know there was a harmful view taken on substance abuse and mental illness, although it likely started well before then. We have more records of how people with these disorders were described in places like medical literature from later periods.
  • For example, by the early 1900s, people with alcohol addictions were described as moral inferiors. Their children were called born criminals, who couldn’t determine right from wrong.
  • In 1914, there was the passage of legislation called the Harrison Anti-Narcotic Act. Addiction was criminalized, as were physicians who worked to treat substance use disorders.
  • Even in more modern times, the stigma of addiction and mental health has been reinforced. For example, in the 1970s the so-called War on Drugs started. There wasn’t a focus on treatment or rehabilitation, nor was addiction viewed as a disease. Instead, the war on drugs led to furthering criminalization of addiction. The results weren’t favorable, with the number of people going to jail for drug-related crimes have gone up enormously in the past few decades.

Recognizing these stigmas exist is one part of moving forward and away from these damaging viewpoints.


The Effects of Drugs and Alcohol on the Brain

When you use drugs or alcohol, dopamine floods your brain. That dopamine hijacks your reward system. Because of the effects on your reward system, you want to continue seeking out the substance that initially made you feel good.  You may know there are negative consequences or that it’s not healthy, but you can’t stop.

  • Your brain adjusts to the use of the substance through the development of tolerance.
  • When your tolerance rises, you need larger doses of the substance to feel the same way.
  • Your brain’s function and structure can be profoundly affected. 
  • You’re also eventually unable to experience pleasure from healthy, everyday activities.

There are decades of research work that demonstrate the reality of substance use. When you’re addicted to drugs or have an alcohol addiction, it’s not because you’re morally weak, lack willpower, or don’t want to stop.

Many people use recreational drugs or alcohol and never become addicted. Most people don’t. When you first use a substance, you don’t think you will develop an addiction. No one does.

Researchers have identified some of the key area’s addiction effects in the brain.

  • Dopamine-containing pathways are the ones we know are most significantly affected.
  • Short-term drug or alcohol use may cause minor effects in the brain.
  • Long-term use causes significant brain changes that reinforce an alcohol or drug habit, like strengthening memory circuits associated with drug-taking. 
  • For years after someone stops taking drugs or alcohol, the brain changes can continue. That continuation is why addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease.

That doesn’t mean you’ll absolutely relapse with drug addiction or alcohol use disorders, but it does mean addiction requires treatment with relapse prevention in mind.


Understanding the Reasons for Stigma

Mental disorders and addiction often go hand-in-hand. These are co-occurring disorders.

People with mental illness are unlikely to get help for their condition, just like people with substance use disorders. Not getting help is very often due to the stigma or discrimination they worry they’ll experience.

There are different types of stigma that can affect you.

  • Public stigma involves other people’s negative attitudes about mental illness or addiction. 
  • Then, there’s self-stigma, which is internalized shame you may feel.
  • Institutional stigma is systemic and may mean you have limited opportunities because of your addiction or mental health issue. For example, there may be fewer treatment options for physical health conditions or less access to treatment. Even health insurance companies reinforce this stigma. Health insurance issuers can make accessing mental health benefits and addiction disorder services harder. 
  • Stigma can affect someone personally dealing with addiction or a mental illness. Stigma can also affect their families and loved ones.
  • Culturally, stigma may be a significant issue too. For example, there’s an even greater stigma about accessing addiction or mental health treatment or seeing mental health counselors in some cultures. There can also be distrust in treatment systems, including mental health & addiction services. 



The Consequences of Stigma

In mental health and addiction, arguably the most significant consequence of stigma is barriers to substance use treatment. Addiction is a treatable disease. 

With successful treatment programs, you can manage symptoms and start your life in recovery.

You can retain your sense of control and live a self-directed life. Unfortunately, if you’re embarrassed or feel shame about your situation, you’re much less likely to seek help at treatment facilities or a mental health facility. 

  • You may worry about what people think about you, but addiction is a chronic, progressive disease. 
  • A progressive illness worsens over time, and more complications can develop.
  • Other mental health disorders like anxiety and depression can also progress without treatment. This worsening of addiction and mental health disorders can contribute to a behavioral health crisis. 
  • The effects of stigma include low self-esteem, more difficulties at school or work, and a reduced sense of hope.

Stigma can lead to social isolation, bullying or violence, or the belief that you can’t do anything to improve your situation, reinforcing the idea that you shouldn’t get behavioral health care. 


Addiction Treatment

We want to emphasize again that addiction is a disease and a treatable one. However, it’s nearly impossible to overcome a substance use disorder simply by deciding you want to stop. Treatment often includes a combination of therapy and medication.

Treatment and recovery have challenges, but you’ll find it’s worth it.

The opioid crisis has brought to our attention the effects of stigma in addiction services and mental health care more than ever. Tens of thousands of people are needlessly dying annually, in large part due to stigma. 

Our goal is always to reduce these effects. Anchored Tides Recovery helps people with addictions and their loved ones learn more about substance use and overcome it. To learn more about mental health and addiction services, please call 866-600-7709. We can provide you with information about the addiction recovery process for a substance use disorder. 

How Drug Addiction Ruined My Life


We often hear from women who feel their alcohol or drug addiction has ruined their lives. While it can feel this way, and undoubtedly addiction affects your life in many ways, there is always hope. 

Addiction is a disease affecting your brain and physical health. When you have a substance use disorder to alcohol or illegal drugs, it also affects everything else in your life. These effects can extend to your family and children, your career, and your finances.

Those effects can lead to feelings of guilt and shame. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, guilt and shame then perpetuate the cycle of addiction. 

If you can break that cycle with practical, evidence-based treatment. In that case, you can begin to repair the other areas of your life you feel your relationship with addictive substances has damaged. 

Hope is never lost. During a rehab program, we address not just ways you can stop using drugs or alcohol. We also work on relapse prevention and coping strategies and help you prepare to re-enter your life and thrive.

Before you can get on a path to recovery, you need to take steps to get treatment, which will be the most challenging part of the situation. Recognizing the impact and harmful consequences of your addiction can be painful. That recognition is necessary, however, to move forward.


What Is Addiction?

Understanding the biological elements of addiction can help you eliminate some of the shame you might feel. Addiction is a chronic dysfunction of your brain. 

  • The disease affects the parts of your brain controlling motivation, memory, and primarily, reward. 
  • When you’re struggling with addiction, you won’t be able to stop using the substance often without professional treatment.
  • You may have no self-control. Your desire to keep using drugs or alcohol outweighs everything else because your brain is compelling you to keep using.
  • Even when you realize the adverse effects of your addiction, you can’t stop. When you have a substance use disorder, you may try to cut down or stop, but you can’t.


What is the Most Addictive Drug?

The most addictive drugs include:

  • Cocaine
  • Alcohol
  • Methamphetamine
  • Nicotine
  • Heroin
  • Prescription drugs like oxycontin and other opioid pain relievers


Is Drug Addiction a Disease?

Addiction to both drugs and alcohol is a brain disease. 

  • When you use addictive drugs, they create a euphoric high. 
  • The high is pleasurable and is due mainly to effects on dopamine levels.
  •  There are physical and psychological elements to the euphoria that comes with extraordinarily high levels of dopamine. 
  • For some people, once that pleasure occurs, the reward pathways in the brain are activated. 
  • While initially using the drug may have been your choice, eventually, your brain adjusts itself to the presence of the substance.

There is also a physical element which is dependence. When you have physical dependence and psychological dependence on any type of drug, if you stop suddenly, it will cause withdrawal symptoms if you stop suddenly. 

Some people can use substances and never become addicted. Then others might use drugs or alcohol for a short period of time and develop an addiction. 

  • Some of whether or not you develop a substance use disorder depend on the frontal lobes of your brain. 
  • Your frontal lobes ordinarily help you to delay gratification or reward. 
  • If you have a malfunction in your frontal lobes, gratification is immediate, potentially triggering an addiction.
  • Other parts of your brain play a role in addiction too. For example, the nucleus accumbens controls sensations of pleasure. This part of your brain can increase your response when there’s exposure to substances or even behaviors that can be addictive.
  • Chemical imbalances and co-occurring mental illness can also put you at a higher risk of alcohol addiction or addiction to recreational drugs. 
  • When you have an addicted brain, it affects your decision-making, learning and memory, behavioral control, and judgment.

These effects are why you’ll often see someone who was once a high achiever, for example, losing everything before seeking substance abuse treatment. 



Addiction is a Chronic Disease

Along with being a disease, more specifically, alcohol or drug addiction is a chronic illness. Chronic disease can be treated and managed, although not necessarily cured. 

Addiction is not a moral failing. 

Long-term recovery is when you’re in remission from the disease of addiction. For people in recovery, it’s essential to focus on continuing your treatment plan and making healthy lifestyle decisions to avoid addictive behaviors. 

Risk factors increasing your risk of developing a substance abuse disorder include genetic factors and family history, environmental factors, and the use of drugs or alcohol in your developmental years. Having a mental health issue or a medical condition like chronic pain can also raise the risk of addiction. 


How Addiction Affects the Family

The devastating effects of addiction impact families, including spouses, children, and parents, significantly.

If you have a young child, seeing you suffer from addiction can create emotional pain and distress for them. When a child faces exposure to drugs or alcohol, it can affect their emotional and mental health and stability.

Again, a key symptom of addiction is that the substance takes priority over everything else, wreaking havoc on all parts of your life.

Even though an addicted person may recognize the negative consequences of their addiction to alcohol or drugs, they can’t stop. 

Other effects of substance use disorders include:

  • Declines in work performance
  • Job loss
  • Breakdowns in romantic relationships, such as a marriage
  • Health issues
  • Changes in mood or behavior such as a lack of energy, being socially withdrawn, or neglecting hygiene and appearance
  • Significant financial problems


How to Help Someone with Drug Addiction

Maybe you aren’t the person struggling with addiction, but you have a loved one who is. What can you do? There are certain things out of your control and some steps you can take.

  • Learn as much as you can about substance abuse and addiction treatment. When you understand that dealing with substance use disorders isn’t a choice and is a disease, it can help you come from a place of empathy rather than judgment. There are good resources like the Mental Health Services Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse to connect with information. 
  • Often people with a substance use disorder have an untreated co-occurring mental health disorder. They may turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. You can take the time to educate yourself on mental health disorders and their effects. You might even reach out to a therapist or mental health provider on behalf of your loved one.
  • Don’t wait for your loved one to hit rock bottom before saying something about their drug misuse. The longer they go with untreated addiction, the more significant and devastating the effects. Speak out as soon as you can.
  • Be honest about your concerns. Offer particular examples of the effects of addiction-related destructive behavior. Be honest about your feelings as well.
  • Listen to what the person is saying. Don’t try to argue with them. Instead, let them feel heard, so they can understand you’re a positive support system.
  • Offer information about how the person can deal with their addiction to drugs or alcohol, such as contacting a rehab center.
  • Don’t try to bribe, threaten or lecture the person. Emotional appeals tend to bring about more feelings of guilt. Again, guilt fuels addiction, which is counterproductive when interacting with people with substance use disorders. 
  • Know that one conversation is unlikely to encourage the person to change. It takes time, and recovery is a process.
  • Consider staging an intervention.
  • If your loved one agrees to treatment, realize that every person is unique, and so is their recovery. Be patient, and manage your expectations.

Drug addiction can and often does ruin your life. That doesn’t mean that your life isn’t salvageable, though. Whether you’re personally in the midst of active addiction or you have a loved one who is, help exists.

Treatment for drug addiction, including alcohol or opioid addiction, requires behavioral therapies and in some cases medication-assisted treatment. It’s also important any underlying mental health conditions receive treatment before the recovery process can begin. 

The first step to facilitate a sense of hope is treatment. Call 866-600-7709 and reach out to the Anchored Tides Recovery team to learn more.

Is Internet Addiction a Mental Disorder?

Internet addiction disorder

Internet addiction disorder


There is no recognition of internet addiction in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). However, the DSM-5 does include internet gaming disorder, which is similar, as a condition for further study. Internet addiction, in the manual, is highlighted as a developing area of specialty.

While pathological internet use is still being studied as far as setting diagnostic criteria, we know a fair amount about behavioral addictions. Behavioral addictions can include internet, gaming, and social media addiction. Other behavioral addictions are compulsive shopping, gambling addiction, and sex addiction.

Just because researchers need to learn more about addictive behaviors to include them in the DSM-5 doesn’t mean these behaviors don’t cause you distress. 

Behavioral addictions affect your brain in many of the same ways as different types of addictions to substances like drugs and alcohol. As a result, they often require professional treatment.


What is a Behavioral Addiction?

If we talk about addiction relating to online activities, it will fall into the larger category of behavioral addiction.

  • For people with internet addiction or other behavioral addictions, it can take over their lives. 
  • You may seek out increasing opportunities to engage in the behavior. 
  • The compulsive behavior that you’re addicted to is your top priority. 
  • Other things in your life suffer, including your career and relationships.
  • You can also go through withdrawal symptoms. 
  • Gambling addiction is the only behavioral addiction officially recognized in the DSM-5.

Behavioral addiction is also known as a process addiction. A process addiction follows the same patterns as an addiction to substances. The problems stemming from process addictions affect your life in many ways, similar to being addicted to drugs or alcohol.


Signs of a Behavioral Addiction

Signs and criteria for internet addiction and behavioral addictions include:

  • Spending most of your time doing the behavior or thinking about it. You may also spend significant amounts of time planning to do the behavior.
  • You’re depending on engaging in the behavior as a coping mechanism for emotions and to feel normal.
  • You continue to engage in the behavior even though it causes negative consequences. 
  • Someone with a behavioral addiction may want to stop or cut back, but they can’t.
  • You neglect other priorities in your life.
  • You can go through withdrawal symptoms such as irritability and depression if you try to stop the behavior.
  • Often someone with a behavioral or process addiction will minimize or hide the problem.

We’ve touched on a few, but some of the most common behavioral addictions and impulse control disorders treatment providers see include:

  • Exercise addiction
  • Pathological gambling, including online gambling 
  • Food addiction
  • Compulsive internet use 
  • Porn addiction
  • Food addiction
  • Shopping addiction
  • Video game addiction/online gaming addiction
  • Work addiction
  • Tattoo addiction

Even if we don’t call compulsive behavior an addiction, it can lead to significant problems and distress.


Symptoms of Internet Addictive Disorders 

Getting a diagnosis for internet addiction can be tricky since it isn’t formally recognized. However behavioral health experts tend to see some common elements in people with internet addiction. 

Symptoms of internet addiction may include:

  • Excessive or problematic internet use: If you’re concerned about your excessive internet use, there are a few things to think about. Do you stay online for longer than you mean to, or are other people often complaining about the time you spend online? You might think to yourself that you’re just going to be a few more minutes when you’re online, or you could hide your usage. You might also try and ultimately fail to reduce your online time.
  • Withdrawal: We most frequently talk about withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, but the symptoms can occur in behavioral addictions too. You may feel tense, angry, or depressed when you can’t go online because of internet dependency. 
  • Tolerance: One of the defining symptoms of drug or alcohol addiction is tolerance. Your brain becomes used to the stimulus of whatever it is you’re doing. Then, you need more of it to keep getting that high you’re chasing. You could see this play out in an internet addiction as you spend more and more time online. Eventually, you could find yourself centering your entire day around using the internet.
  • Adverse effects: If there weren’t harm stemming from addiction to anything, we wouldn’t see it as a problem. There is though and the internet isn’t an exception. Your performance at school or work could begin to suffer. Internet addicts might not have the energy to devote to other things in their life. Your finances and quality of relationships can suffer. You can also have adverse health effects like carpal tunnel syndrome, insomnia, neck pain, and weight gain.



Types of Internet Addiction

Internet addiction can become a catch-all term, and there are subtypes of this compulsive behavior.

For example, one subtype is compulsive information seeking. You might seek information online to the point that it becomes obsessive-compulsive. When you’re amid compulsive information seeking, it can impact your work productivity and performance.

Pornography and cybersex addictions can arise. These compulsive behaviors can impact your ability to form meaningful relationships in your own life.

We’re seeing a rise in internet gaming addicts currently. 

Social media addiction is also a big one getting a lot of attention. You might get addicted to the dopamine you feel when someone likes your post. This creates a feedback loop, and it can be damaging to multiple areas of your life, including your self-esteem and sense of self-worth.


Internet Addictions and Co-Occurring Disorders

As with other types of addiction, when you compulsively use the internet, it can co-occur with other psychiatric disorders when you compulsively use the internet. 

Which clinical disorder comes first can vary. For example, you could be more pre-disposed to internet addiction if you have other psychiatric disorders like anxiety or depression, you could be more pre-disposed to internet addiction. Your use of the internet could be a coping mechanism or a way to self-medicate and deal with your psychiatric symptoms. 

In another situation, internet use behaviors could contribute to developing a mental health disorder.


Treatment for Internet Addiction

While a mental health professional might not have a set of criteria to diagnose an internet addiction from the DSM-5, that doesn’t mean they can’t help you.

If you’re struggling with online use, including gaming, social media, or anything else involving the internet, a therapist can help you work through what’s going on.

There isn’t one specific treatment for internet addiction. The treatment can depend on a variety of individual factors. For example, how severe are your behaviors, and how do they affect your life?

Therapy is one of the most common types of interventions for internet addiction. Treatment should also address co-occurring disorders such as anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

In some instances, medication may be part of treatment, especially if there’s an underlying mental health disorder.

To learn more about aftercare treatment for an addictive disorder, please call 866-600-7709 and reach out to the team at Anchored Tides Recovery.

What are the Different Types of Addiction?

types of addiction


What we often don’t think about is the fact that along with substance use disorders, there are other types of addiction as well. Addiction is a dysfunction of your brain’s reward system. When you have an addiction, it also affects your memory and motivation.

These adverse effects on your brain function that occur with an addiction can lead your body to crave a behavior or substance.  You may obsessively try and pursue whatever it is you’re addicted to. Even when negative consequences stem from the addiction, you continue anyway. Your addiction is your ultimate priority, above anything else.

Broadly, we can divide the different types of addiction into two categories—chemical and behavioral.

Chemical addiction is the misuse of substances like illicit drugs. Behavioral addictions are those compulsive behaviors that you carry out even when they aren’t beneficial and are harmful. Sometimes you’ll hear references to a shopping addiction or internet addiction, for example.

Addictive behavior often co-occurs with other mental disorders. 


Understanding Addiction

Addiction interferes with your brain’s reward system and other elements of its function. When you’re doing enjoyable things, your reward system releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter. Dopamine doesn’t necessarily cause feelings of pleasure. Instead, it reinforces the association your brain makes between certain activities and feelings of pleasure you experience.

That reinforcement leads you to want to continue to seek those things out.

If you use drugs or engage in a certain behavior, you may want to experience the feelings of euphoria they create again. This can lead to cravings for behavior or substance like prescription medications, illegal drugs, or alcohol. Cravings can be one of the first symptoms of addiction.

When you continue to use the substance or do the behavior, your brain keeps triggering a high release of dopamine. Then, eventually, your brain starts to produce lower amounts of dopamine naturally in response to triggers that would ordinarily bring you pleasure.

As this goes on, you need more stimulus to make up for the dopamine your brain isn’t producing anymore, which is tolerance or physical dependence. 

When an addiction develops, you might lose interest in things you previously enjoyed since you aren’t making dopamine in response to these activities.

Loss of control is a defining feature of addiction, which can lead to problems in relationships, health, and your career. Many people also experience other adverse consequences of compulsive behavior patterns or substance use, like financial issues. 

When you’re in active addiction, you no longer get the pleasurable feeling from the drug or behavior, but you can’t stop doing it without therapy, addiction treatment, or behavior modification. 


What is Chemical Addiction?

Chemical addiction is a catch-all term used to refer to substance abuse, addiction, and physical and psychological dependence.

Because of that, it’s often known as a substance use disorder. A substance use disorder or actual addiction is diagnosable and can fall into one of three categories—mild, moderate, and severe.

Symptoms of substance use disorder are:

  • Intense cravings that make it hard to think about anything else daily
  • Needing to use larger doses of the substance to get the same effects
  • Feeling uncomfortable if you can’t get the substance
  • Risky use, like driving under the influence
  • Problems managing your daily responsibilities
  • Relationship issues stemming from substance use
  • Not spending as much time doing the activities you once enjoyed
  • Unsuccessful efforts to stop using the substance 
  • Withdrawal symptoms if you cut down your usage or stop cold turkey 

Some of the most common substance addictions and addictive substances include:

  • Alcohol use disorder 
  • Nicotine
  • Opioids, including prescription drug addictions and heroin
  • Cannabis
  • Amphetamine drug addiction 
  • Methamphetamine addiction disorder 
  • Cocaine


Behavioral Addictions

Behavioral addictions can be a little harder to spot and diagnose. There are fewer evidence-based criteria for the diagnosis and treatment of behavioral addictions compared to something like alcohol addiction. 

Currently, the DSM-5 does have two behavioral addictions it recognizes.

The first is gambling addiction (compulsive gambling), and the second is internet gaming disorder which is similar to video game addiction. 

  • There’s disagreement among medical experts about when behaviors can potentially become addictions and the particular behaviors that have a predisposition to lead to addiction.
  • Currently, the American Psychological Association doesn’t include behavior patterns linked to things like exercise, shopping, and sexual behavior in the DSM, because it says there isn’t enough peer-reviewed evidence available to develop diagnostic criteria.
  • That doesn’t mean that behaviors can’t lead to symptoms of addiction. It just means that as it stands right now, more research is needed to standardize how we diagnose and understand these addictions compared to other types of addiction.

General signs of a possible behavioral addiction include:

  • Spending an excessive period of time engaging in the behavior
  • Having urges to keep engaging in the behavior despite its negative effects on your life, responsibilities like school or work, or your relationships
  • Using behaviors to manage uncomfortable emotions
  • Hiding what you’re doing or how much time you spend on a behavior
  • Trouble avoiding the behavior
  • Experience symptoms of withdrawal if you don’t engage in the behavior like anxiety, depression, restlessness, or irritability
  • Continuing to engage in the behavior even when it creates distress
  • Unsuccessful efforts to stop doing whatever the behavior is 

Common types of behavioral addiction that often lead people to get professional treatment include:

  • Exercise
  • Compulsive shopping 
  • Food addiction
  • Sex addiction
  • Social media
  • TV



Treatment for Substance Addiction

With a substance use disorder, most people need professional treatment. There are complex physical and mental factors and potentially co-occurring disorders that play a role in addiction. If you’re dependent on a substance, you may need a supervised detox first.

  • During detox, you can receive medical treatment for the physical symptoms of chemical dependence. 
  • Then, you could go to residential or outpatient treatment.
  • During residential treatment, you stay at a treatment facility, receiving specialized care and support. 
  • Residential rehab can last for a few weeks to several months on average.
  • An outpatient program is more flexible, and you continue to live at home.

Regardless of the specific type of addiction treatment program you participate in, psychotherapy and counseling will likely be part of it. 

  • Working with a therapist or counselor can help you understand why you started using substances and develop new coping mechanisms.
  • An FDA-approved medication can also be used for substance addiction. 
  • There are medication-assisted treatments for alcohol, opioid and nicotine addictions in particular. 
  • Medications reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Support groups like a 12-step program can help people get sober or stay in addiction recovery. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are two of the more well-known 12-step programs.


Treatment for Behavioral Addiction

The most common approach to treating different types of addiction involving a behavior is therapy, as with other mental health disorders. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy is an evidence-based way to treat behavioral addictions.

When you participate in CBT, you’re focused on paying attention to your distressing thoughts and emotions. You work with a therapist to learn how to reframe those thoughts. You can work on the goal of developing better-coping skills.

Depending on your symptoms, an SSRI antidepressant might be part of the treatment. Participation in self-help groups can be valuable for behavioral addictions. 

Often, as is the case with treating chemical addictions, behavioral addiction treatment requires a combination of approaches.


Get Help to Avoid Complications

Different types of addiction can vary, but the one underlying concept is that they are treatable. Without treatment, both substance addictions and behavioral addictions can worsen and complications can develop. 

Over time without treatment, the effects on your life become more damaging. Reach out to us to learn more about getting the treatment you need for mental health issues or substance abuse disorder.