Addiction: Types, Causes & Solutions (For Teens)


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Addiction refers to any behavior or act that is difficult to stop doing, even though that behavior is causing negative consequences. Some of the most common addictions include drugs, alcohol, gambling, and pornography. Knowing the difference between having an addiction, and not having one, is important to prevent it from developing.

What Is Addiction?

When people hear the term “addiction” they tend to think about substance use like alcohol or drugs and the negative stereotypes about people who have an addiction.  

However, the term “addiction” refers to any behavior or act that is difficult to stop engaging in, even though that behavior is causing negative consequences. 

With so much misinformation out there about addiction, you might be wondering, “What’s the difference between something I do every day and having an addiction?” or “If I experiment with drugs, alcohol, play a lot of video games, or spend time on the internet, does that mean I will develop an addiction?” 

Knowing the difference between having an addiction and not having an addiction is important to prevent or stop an addiction from developing.

Here are some common behaviors that could lead to developing an addiction:

This list does not include all behaviors that could lead to an addiction, but are the most common.

  • Using alcohol or drugs
  • Smoking cigarettes or vaping
  • Spending time surfing the internet, social media, or online shopping
  • Watching pornography
  • Exercising
  • Eating
  • Gambling
  • Shopping

Engaging in any of the behaviors above does not mean that you will develop an addiction.  Addiction is complex. When you engage in any behavior too frequently, it can change the way you think, feel, decision making, and your overall behavior. 

Sometimes, you can become so consumed in a behavior that you can start to lose control of who you are and who you want to be. Relationships, academics, and other interests take a back seat to a developing addiction. When you notice that you can’t stop thinking about a behavior or engaging in a behavior, it’s possible that the behavior is turning into an addiction.

Addiction is scary. No one chooses to be addicted: sometimes it just happens. Addiction can change you physically, mentally, emotionally, and affect you financially. For many, an addiction happens before they notice it’s a problem. 

It is usually only after other people point out how a behavior has changed them, do they become aware of how they’ve changed. Knowing the signs of a developing addiction can help you get help before the addiction turns into an even bigger problem. If you notice any signs of a developing addiction, reach out!

Why Do I Feel This Way?

developing addiction

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, you may want to know why. Unfortunately, there isn’t one reason that explains why someone develops an addiction. 

We do have an idea of what factors can contribute to the formation of an addiction. Some of these factors are your age, genetics, brain chemistry, peer pressure, stress, anxiety, and your environment can influence how an addiction develops. 

Although some things like your genetics and brain chemistry can influence the likelihood of developing an addiction, you can prevent developing an addiction by making healthy choices. If you find yourself struggling to make healthy choices, reach out for help.

Addiction Signs and Symptoms

If you notice in yourself or others any of the following signs and symptoms, you may be developing or have an addiction:

  • Neglecting personal or family responsibilities
  • Declining performance in academics or other interests
  • A disregard of harm that the behavior is causing you
  • A sense of loss of control (not able to stop even though a part of you wants to)
  • Denial that the behavior is a problem
  • Others pointing out to you that you have a problem 
  • Others asking you to cut back from the behavior
  • Needing more of the behavior to feel its effects
  • Changes in mood, including irritability or anger
  • Always thinking about or preoccupied with the behavior
  • Withdrawal symptoms (negative body reaction or cravings after reducing or stopping a behavior)


drug addiction

Sometimes drugs, those prescribed by a doctor to treat an illness, can be healthy. Taking other drugs, those not prescribed by a doctor to treat an illness, can cause a lot of problems. Drugs can alter the way you think, feel, and act. Taking drugs that aren’t prescribed to you can cause you to engage in risky behaviors and take unnecessary risks. They can also damage you physically, mentally, and hurt the relationships you have in your life. 

Here is a list of drugs that are addictive. Click here for more substance use information.

  • Alcohol 
  • Tobacco: Cigarettes/Swishers/Black and Milds/chewing tobacco or snuff
  • Vaping/E-Pens
  • Caffeine
  • Weed/Cannabis/Marijuana/Hashish
  • Hallucinogens/K2/MDMA/Ecstasy/LSD/Shrooms
  • Inhalants/Sniffing/Huffing
  • Opioids/Pills/Oxy/Hydrocodone/Heroin/Codeine/Morphine
  • Sedatives/Benzos/Xanax
  • Stimulants/Cocaine/Meth


gambling addiction

Gambling can be exciting. Winning a bet against a friend can give you a rush! Most people like to win. The rush of winning and earning something can cause you to search for other risky behaviors to gamble against. 

A small bet between friends may not be harmful, but if you find yourself needing to gamble often, losing control over the urge to gamble, and/or gamble with more money than you can afford to lose you may be struggling with a gambling addiction. 

It may feel harmless at first, but gambling can hurt you financially and mentally. If you or someone you know is struggling, reach out to a counselor or trusted adult.

Addiction Wellbeing Strategies

Avoid addictive behaviors: Although your genetics, family history, and brain chemistry can increase the likelihood of developing an addiction, avoiding addictive behaviors is a sure way to not develop an addiction.   

Avoid triggers: Once you have an addiction, but are working to address it, it is important to avoid triggers. Triggers include people, places, and things that could influence you to engage in the addictive behavior again. If you find it difficult to avoid your addictive behavior, you can work with a counselor to develop the skills to avoid triggers and to develop healthy coping skills.  

Talk to a counselor, therapist, or hotline: It can be difficult to address your emotions and thoughts, experiences, and life challenges. Reaching out to a counselor, therapist, or hotline can help you feel better and less alone. There are many options to get professional help, including online counseling and therapy!

Talk to a trusted adult: Parents, mentors, school employees, and religious leaders can provide you with additional support and guidance to work through your life challenges.

Take care of yourself: Exercise, sleep and eating healthy can have a big impact on your overall mood and how you feel about yourself. You can also do something you enjoy, such as yoga, art, sports, writing, listening to music, playing an instrument, etc.  Finding time to do things that you enjoy can help you feel better.

Meditate, prayer, mindfulness: Connecting to your breathing and your abilities to calm yourself can help positively increase your mood. Spending time in nature can help improve your mood.

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