Almost everybody on the planet knows what addiction is but addiction can mean different things to different people.

So what does addiction mean?

The word “addiction” comes from the Latin word “addicere”, which means enslaved by or bound to. As originally used, the word was not linked to substance use behaviours. Its origins were linked to the excessive consumption of alcohol.

Alcohol misuse is a factor in 30% of suicides each year. In England, there were 357,659 estimated admissions to hospital where an alcohol-related disease, injury or condition was the primary diagnosis or there was an alcohol-related external cause in 2017/18. 

What is an addiction?

Addiction is a neuropsychological disorder characterized by a persistent and intense urge to engage in certain behaviours, often usage of a drug, despite substantial harm and other negative consequences. Repetitive drug use often alters brain function in ways that perpetuate craving, and weakens self-control.

Are some people more prone to an addiction?

Addiction does not discriminate – it can affect people of all ages, intelligence levels and backgrounds. The signs, symptoms and causes of addiction can vary from person to person, but still, addiction can have a damaging effect on anyone’s livelihood and it’s often difficult to manage without professional addiction treatments.

While there are some basic contributing factors to addiction such as home and family problems, mental health illness, friends or family who abuse drugs and genetics, there are some groups that are at higher risk for addiction. These include Caucasians, people who have high IQs and those suffering from mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder or ADHD.

What are the 3 types of addiction?

  • Behavioural addiction

Many people associate addiction solely with substances, like alcohol or drugs.

  • Substance addiction

Substance addiction creates a physical dependence on a specific chemical.

  • Impulse addiction

 Impulse control disorders can lead to impulse addiction.

Types of addiction range from everyday drugs like alcohol and cocaine to behaviours like gambling and stealing. Some types of addiction are specified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) while others are more controversial and have been identified by some addiction professionals.

The types of addiction seen with drug use are defined in the DSM-5, but it uses the terms substance abuse and substance dependency. Neither equates to addiction directly but rather, refers to harmful use of substances. Addiction is both psychological and behavioural. Addictions are characterized by craving, compulsion, an inability to stop using the drug and lifestyle dysfunction due to drug use.

What is a behavioural addiction?

Also known as non-substance addictions or addictive behaviours, there are certain actions out there that people have found to be addictive. These can include:

  • Food
  • Gaming
  • Plastic Surgery
  • Sex
  • Social Media
  • Gambling
  • Internet
  • Risks
  • Shopping
  • Pornography

What is impulse addiction?

Any behaviour that involves the inability to resist actions that are ultimately harmful to the individual or others can be classed as an impulse control disorder. Substance abuse, whether it involves drugs or alcohol, is one of the most common problems.


Impulsivity has five distinct stages of behaviour:

  • An impulse
  • A growing tension
  • Pleasure when impulse is satisfied
  • Relief from satisfaction
  • Guilt or lack of guilt

Signs and symptoms of impulse control

  • Stealing.
  • Compulsive lying.
  • Starting fires.
  • Participating in risky sexual behaviours.
  • Acting out aggressively or violently against people, animals, objects, and/or property.

It’s evident that addiction is far more complex than drugs or alcohol. Did any surprise you?

How is addiction treated?

Depending on the type of addiction you have will require an approach suited to your particular addiction.

What are treatments for drug addiction?

  • Behavioural counselling.
  • Medication.
  • Medical devices and applications used to treat withdrawal symptoms or deliver skills training.
  • Evaluation and treatment for co-occurring mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
  • Long-term follow-up to prevent relapse

What are the treatments for non-substance addiction?

 Similar to drug and alcohol addiction, there are many treatment options available to those who suffer from behavioural addiction. These treatments, if supervised by professionals, can lead to 100% recovery from addiction and give you back your ability to live a more balanced, honest life.

Individual Counselling

Individual counselling is a highly effective way to get to the bottom of your non-substance addiction. A professional counsellor can help you look at the bigger picture, as well as issues from your past that might be contributing to your compulsive behaviour.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT is the most common form of psychotherapy used to treat behavioural addictions. CBT helps people identify the patterns that are triggering their addictive behaviours and then works on removing or altering those triggers through lifestyle changes.

What is the treatment for impulsive addiction?

The most prominent form of treatment would be cognitive behaviour therapy. (See above)

Is there a medication for impulsive behaviour?

There are no medications for impulse control disorder. Despite the lack of medication, several medications are used off-label to treat impulse control disorders. Antidepressants can treat irritability associated with impulse control disorders.

So now we have covered the different types of addiction, no matter what it is it may have an effect on your physical health, your mental health, your finances and relationships.

The good news is there is help available for all of the addictions listed. I will supply links to where you can seek help for the different addictions but obviously I want to focus on tobacco smoking addiction.

Everybody knows smoking tobacco is highly addictive and one in two smokers will die of a smoking related disease.

Why is it so difficult to quit smoking?

Nicotine is the main addictive drug in tobacco that makes quitting so hard. Cigarettes are designed to rapidly deliver nicotine to your brain.

Inside your brain, nicotine triggers the release of chemicals that make you feel good. As nicotine stimulates parts of your brain over and over, your brain gets used to having nicotine around.

Over time, nicotine changes how your brain works and makes it seem like you need nicotine just to feel okay.

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When you stop smoking, your brain gets irritable. As a result, you might get anxious or upset. You might have a hard time concentrating or sleeping, have strong urges to smoke, or just feel generally uncomfortable.

These feelings are called withdrawal. This gets better a few weeks after quitting as your brain gets used to not having nicotine around.

Some quit-smoking medicines contain nicotine. This gives you a safe way to get used to not having so much nicotine from cigarettes in your brain.

Why do so many people fail to quit smoking?

Surveys have found that even though 80% of smokers would like to quit smoking, less than five percent are able to quit on their own due to the highly addictive properties of nicotine.

In England cigarette smoking is responsible for an estimated 81,700 deaths per year, in other words, 223 people a day or nine people an hour die from their smoking ‘habit’. An estimated 36% of all respiratory disease deaths, 29% of cancer deaths and 14% of all circulatory disease deaths are attributable to smoking. This figure rises to 87% of deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease and 82% of deaths from lung, bronchus and trachea cancer (NHS Information Centre)

On an individual level, a long-term regular smoker loses an average of 10 years of their life.

 That is, approximately 8 out of 10 non-smokers live beyond 70 years compared to only half of long-term smokers.

If it doesn’t kill you, smoking has multiple other ways of making your life a misery: it increases the risk of stroke, angina, emphysema, high blood pressure, thrombosis, asthma, cataracts, ulcers, erectile dysfunction and many more.

Barriers stopping people quitting;

Within the general population, cross-sectional studies have found variation in the most commonly reported barriers to cessation. Enjoyment (79%) cravings (75%) and stress management (36–63%) are the most frequently reported barriers. Irritability (39–42%) habit (39%) withdrawal symptoms (28–48%) fear of failure (17–32%) and concern about weight gain (27–34%) are also identified as barriers to cessation.

Is there a safer alternative to smoking?

Yes of course the safest alternative is to not smoke at all but as outlined above it is not that simple otherwise every smoker would quit.

There are many products available to assist you quit smoking but 79% report the enjoyment.

This is where e-cigarettes / disposable vapes come into a class of their own.

They offer you all the same pleasures of smoking (Often more pleasurable) but without all the cancer and smoking related diseases.

In fact it is a 95% safer than tobacco smoking, giving you a safer nicotine alternative. It is also known as Tobacco Harm Reduction

Unfortunately many people still believe nicotine is the harmful substance in tobacco, where in fact it is the most addictive ingredient but also the least damaging. Nicotine by it itself is no more harmful than a cup of coffee; it is all the other toxins in cigarette smoke that causes smoking related diseases.


It seems like lots of the younger generation know this but the older people are the more likely to be that the nicotine is the problem.

If you had to cross the ocean in a boat would you opt for a small rubber dinghy or a cruise liner? 

The same analogy could be applied to smoking.

You don’t have to sacrifice the pleasure you get from smoking, you just need a safer nicotine delivery device. Of course your ultimate goal would be to quit entirely but I’ve always been of the opinion we all need at least one vice in our lives.

As an ex-smoker and e-cigarette supplier I’m going to say this right?

Yes I am and my business wouldn’t exist if I wasn’t an ex-smoker because after many failed attempts to quit disposable vapes helped me quit instantly and have never looked back. I can’t promise you the same results as me but vaping has the best results when it comes to Tobacco Harm Reduction and quitting smoking for good.

I have to ask the question, what is stopping you from trying?

For me personally I found it instantly successful but not everyone will. Some people find it useful to use e-cigarettes alongside smoking and gradually phase the tobacco out, it’s all about finding out what works best for you.

Maybe it’s your age, maybe you think the damage Is already done but stopping smoking has an immediate effect on your health no matter what age or how many cigarettes you smoke.

The most disturbing fact I’ve discovered while researching is 50% of people with COPD continue to smoke even when they know it’s killing them. Do you really want your loved ones to watch you deteriorate from this horrible disease? Many COPD sufferers have reported benefits in their symptoms when switched to vaping. Again ideally you would stop smoking completely bit I’m being realistic.

If you suffer from COPD or know a loved one who does please consider a safer nicotine delivery device, it’s never too late to quit.

Some useful links for addiction;

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

0800 9177 650 (email helpline)

Help and support for anyone with alcohol problems.

Alcohol Change UK

Information and support options for people worried about how much alcohol they are drinking.


0300 123 6600

Confidential advice and information about drugs, their effects and the law.

Turning Point

Health and social care services in England for people with a learning disability. Also supports people with mental health problems, drug and alcohol abuse or unemployment.

Narcotics Anonymous

0300 999 1212

Support for anyone who wants to stop using drugs

Turning Point

Health and social care services in England for people with a learning disability. Also supports people with mental health problems, drug and alcohol abuse or unemployment.

Support for impulse addiction