Types of Addiction

Types of Addiction

In truth there are no different types of addiction as such; only different manifestations of the condition. While one person may become dependent on alcohol, someone else addicted to legal or illegal drugs and another person addicted to gambling or some other behaviour, the central dynamic is the same in each: an all-consuming relationship with a substance or activity that changes mood. We know also that people who give up one drug or behaviour are at risk of developing an addictive relationship with an alternative.


In some people, addictive relationships with different substances or behaviours coexist. So a person may find that their use of alcohol and cocaine are both of concern.  Or another person may have a problematic relationship simultaneously with gambling, alcohol and pornography. Addiction can develop to substances that are self-administered by the taker or to drugs prescribed by a doctor. Some legal drugs may be illegally obtained and consumed.


There are many variations and combinations on the single theme of addiction.


The same diagnostic criteria can be applied whatever the characteristics of the relationship.


While many of the harmful consequences are also common to all these manifestations of addiction, there are some harms that are specific to use of the particular substance or behaviour. For instance, the mental and physical effects of an alcohol addiction are different to those of addiction to heroin, cocaine or gambling.


It is important to note that addictions can either create mental health problems or result from an attempt to cope with them. We develop an individual’s treatment plan based on either case.  Happily for many people symptoms of mental ill-health fade away once recovery is established. But it is not always the case and appropriate care has to be put in place.



Both physical and mental disorders can co-exist with addiction.  Some, including those that have roots in adverse experiences, including trauma early in life, play a part in the onset of addiction while others may result from it.


Physical problems may include pre-existing conditions as well as diminished general health, infections and injuries brought on by the addictive behaviour and lifestyle that neglects personal care.  Muscular tension and pain as well as dental problems often feature in a person’s profile.


Psychological, behavioural and personality disorders may either pre-date or contribute to the onset of or be brought on by addiction. These may commonly include anxiety, depression, bi-polar moods and other mental health problems. Eating or food disorders may also feature. All are carefully considered by the team in shaping the individual treatment plan.



Alcoholism is a progressive, chronic illness and in many cases can be fatal when the consumption of alcoholic drinks is out of control. It interferes with physical, mental, social and/or family health in addition to work responsibilities.

Cocaine is a drug belonging to the group of psychoactive substances, that is, it produces a directly stimulating effect to the central nervous system, principally to the brain. Cocaine tolerance develops quickly, which means that it is highly addictive.

Cannabis is one of the illegal drugs that is most widely used. Use is common in adolescents and young people as it is often mistakenly considered a ‘soft’ drug. 19.5% of the Spanish population between 15 and 65 years of age have tried it on some occasion. A figure which increases to nearly one in three (28.2%) if we focus on the 15-29 year old age group.

Dependence or addiction to benzodiazepines is a condition where a person is dependent on a benzodiazepine medication, where dependence can be both psychological as well as physical, or a combination of both.

Heroin and other opiates are sedative drugs which deprive the nervous system, slow the function of the organism and combat emotional and physical pain. Generally, opiates block pain messages, creating a false sense of calm and increasing the sensation of pleasure in the brain. The most common effect of heroin is the feeling of relaxation, warmth and indifference, together with a reduction of anxiety.

Smoking is responsible for approximately 15% of deaths in Spain and kills approximately 200 people every day, of which 166 are men and 40 are women. Smoking has been linked to numerous diseases. The largest percentage of smokers is aged 25-39 years of age (40%), followed by those aged 40-59 years old (39%).

Eating disorders encompass a number of chronic and progressive diseases, comprised of a very complex range of symptoms which go beyond behaviour around food, such as a change or distortion of body image, a fear of weight gain and acquiring a series of values which are manifested through body image. They are illnesses that require a multifactorial analysis (individual-family-society).

Behavioural addictions are treated in the same way as substance addictions. Behaviours that can lead to addiction include:

  • Gambling
  • Sex
  • New technologies (internet, mobile phones, social media, videogames)
  • Shopping
  • Work
  • Co-dependency