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Addiction is a compulsion to repeat a certain behavior. A person who is addicted is known as an addict. Many drugs (especially recreational drugs), for example, cause a set of medical conditions that include stimulating desire for more of the drug, increasing tolerance of higher doses, and pain or discomfort upon terminating use (called withdrawal). The term addiction is also used for the purely psychological phenomenon of compulsive destructive behavior such as excessive gambling.

There is some overlap between behavioural and substance addictions, e.g. a nicotinist becoming calmer through fiddling with her smoking paraphernalia even without smoking. There is some debate over whether eating disorders are addictions - they are often characterised by strong elements of addictive behaviour. Many people experience withdrawal or withdrawal-like symptoms if they alter their diet suddenly, suggesting that some common food substances eg. chocolate, caffeinated beverages, artificial sweeteners and sugar may contain potentially addictive chemicals.

The medical establishment makes a distinction between physical and psychological addictions. Physical addictions[?] lead to physical symptoms upon withdrawal[?]. Psychological addictions[?] lead to psychological symptoms upon withdrawal. The distinction should not be taken to mean that psychological addictions are easier to break than physical ones. Breaking any addiction is very hard, or it wouldn't be an addiction.

The speed with which a given individual becomes addicted to a substance varies with the substance, the frequency of ingestion and individual characteristics. Some alcoholics for instance say that they drank in an alcoholic way from the moment they felt the first intoxication while most people can drink socially without ever becoming addicted. Nicotine is considered by many to be the most addictive substance of all.

Addiction should not be confused with Dependence in the context of Opiates. One with cancer pain is Dependent on Opiates to live a normal life. Remove that Opiate and they will withdrawal (yet they are not an "Addict"). Another example of Dependence vs Addiction is the tachycardia exibited with the removal of a Beta blocker. One is not "Addicted" to a Beta blocker but is Dependent upon it.

The word addiction is some times used jokingly to refer to something a person has a passion for. Such "addicts" include:

Although the term is used loosely rather than seriously, there is actually something in this, because any pleasurable activity releases endorphins, and this endorphin-rush can become 'addictive'.

See also:

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