Breaking Free of Addiction

The truth about addiction may surprise you—whether it's drinking or drugs, more people quit on their own than any other way. Still, addiction rates are rising, and painkillers are leading the pack. Here's the latest thinking on how to leave a habit behind.

Addiction

Addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (gambling) that can be pleasurable but the continued use of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work or relationships, or health.

Relapse

Relapse is now seen as the rule rather than the exception in addiction recovery. And it is no longer viewed as a catastrophe but as an opportunity for learning more and better strategies for overcoming urges and for identifying the moods and situations that are likely to be difficult.

Self-Control

Self-control separates us from our ancient ancestors and the rest of the animal kingdom, thanks to our large prefrontal cortices. Rather than responding to immediate impulses, we can plan, we can evaluate alternative actions, and we can refrain from doing things we'll regret. We can also take advantage of these innately human abilities by developing wisdom and willpower.

 

Self-Help

Most of us wish we could improve certain things about ourselves. Lasting change is difficult—many of our habits are deeply ingrained, and certain core personality attributes may be immutable. But many more things can be changed.