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 is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (e.g., alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (e.g., gambling, sex, shopping) that can be pleasurable but the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health.
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 separates us from our ancient ancestors and the rest of the animal kingdom, thanks to our large prefrontal cortex. It is the ability to subdue our impulses in order to achieve longer-term goals.
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 even the oldest of habits and character traits can be altered to varying degrees, as it's never too late to change; with effort and determination, it is possible to be the person you want to be.