Types Of Drug Addiction, Characteristics And Consequences

The types of drug addiction can be classified according to the subject, according to substance use and according to dependence. Drug addiction is the term used to specify the situation in which a person finds himself when he develops addiction to a certain substance.

However, drug addiction constitutes much more than that. It is a serious and complex psychological illness that can affect the person in multiple ways.

types-of-drug addiction

Research on drug addiction has multiplied in recent years. More and more people suffer from this psychopathology and the consequences are usually very negative.

How are the types of drug addiction classified?

Drug addiction is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive substance seeking and use. This search is done compulsively despite the harmful consequences that they cause on the addicted person.

Obviously, not all drug addictions are the same. Not even the same person has the same addiction characteristics over time.

A person who starts smoking and consumes 4 cigarettes a day does not have the same addiction that this same individual can develop after a while, when a pack is smoked a day.

Likewise, not all drugs produce the same degree or the same type of addiction, and they can affect people’s behavior in very different ways.

In this sense, the types of addiction can be categorized according to 3 main aspects: according to the subject, according to the substance and according to the characteristics of the addiction.

Type of drug addiction according to the subject

This first classification of the type of drug addiction focuses on the behaviors that the person develops about the substance. Lto scientific research it has focused on studying the different patterns of drug use that can make a person.

In reality, the types of drug addiction depending on the subject could be innumerable. Each person can consume the drug in a different way, in different amounts and with different behavioral patterns.

However, numerous studies on drug addiction have revealed the existence of 3 main types of drug addiction.

These three types are categorized according to the degree of dependence on the substance and are: occasional user, drug abuser and drug addict.

Occasional consumption

The occasional substance user makes contacts with drugs sporadically and unexpectedly. The most common is that the subject consumes the substances in social settings, driven by patterns of socialization behavior or by third parties.

A clear example of an occasional consumer would be the person who only drinks when partying. This type of drug addiction is usually interpreted as non-addiction or as benign and not dangerous consumption. However, this is not quite so.

In fact, occasional substance use is listed as one of the types of drug addiction. Obviously, it is the least serious and the most reversible, but it is an addiction in itself.

If the definition of drug addiction is analyzed “compulsive search and consumption of substances despite the harmful consequences they cause”, it is connoted that occasional use meets the characteristics of drug addiction when using the substance.

The individual who uses drugs occasionally, does it and continues to do so despite being aware that it negatively affects their health.

And it is that the element that differentiates the occasional consumption from other types of drug addictions is the absence of consumption of the substance in the usual routine. The subject is not dependent on the drug and does not need to consume it constantly. However, this does not imply that consumption is always low.

A person who only smokes when he meets his friends can smoke 2 times a week if he meets them a few times. But your consumption can increase to 4 if you start to have more or 7 if you see them every day.

Similarly, it cannot be said that a person who only drinks alcohol when partying consumes low amounts of this substance. It will depend on the times you go out to party and the amount of alcohol you drink at those times.

Substance abuse

Substance abuse is the second step of drug addiction. In other words, an occasional user, if he continues to use the substance, may begin to abuse it.

In these cases, the individual’s contact with the drug is much more frequent and is not limited to special situations.

Thus, in substance abuse, drug use begins to emerge in different situations and at different times of the day. The use of the drug is no longer limited to the situation or environment in which the subject finds himself.

Despite the fact that addiction to each drug is different, in these cases a notable dependence to the substance has usually begun to be witnessed. The person incorporates the drug into their day-to-day life and gets used to working with its consumption.

However, in these cases the development of a clear dependence on the substance has not yet been witnessed. The individual can go several hours or even days without consuming the drug without this being a problem. Although the absence of consumption is not the most common in their day to day.

Likewise, drug abuse does not imply a total loss of will over the drug. The person can decide when to consume and when not, with a certain capacity to resist the narcotic.

Drug addiction

Finally, drug addiction is the last and definitive type of drug addiction that a person can develop. As its name indicates, in this third stage the person has already developed a clear dependence on the substance.

By dependence on the drug is understood the need to consume it to function properly. In this way, the drug addict will present alterations when he does not consume the drug and will stop presenting them when he does.

In this case, the person experiences an uncontrollable urge to keep the narcotic in their body. Likewise, you lose practically all your will and control over the use of the substance.

Drug dependence varies depending on the substance consumed. However, in most cases drug use can be very high.

In turn, the use of the drug remains despite witnessing directly how the substance negatively affects health, behavior, performance, work, personal relationships, quality of life, etc.

Drug addiction according to substance

There are many types of drugs, each with certain characteristics. Likewise, each substance produces different effects on mental functioning.

These differences can be perceived both in terms of the effects sought (for example marijuana calms, and active cocaine) and in terms of the effects of addiction.

Thus, the addiction caused by alcohol is different from that caused by tobacco, cocaine, marijuana, heroin, etc.

Currently, the number of substances that can generate addiction is practically endless. Those with more data and research on their effects and the addiction they generate are listed below.


Alcohol is a socially and legally accepted substance. Its occasional use rarely turns into drug addiction, although the abuse of this substance does usually generate it.

Addiction to alcohol is usually slow, so years of use are required to generate dependence on the substance.

However, the alteration caused by addiction to this substance is usually very serious. It can generate both physical and psychological dependence, and motivates negative consequences both at the brain level and at the physical level.


Tobacco is the most widely used drug around the world. It consists of a very addictive substance, which is why smoking is the most prevalent psychopathological disorder.

Some studies suggest that tobacco is the most addictive drug in the first consumptions. In this way, it is the substance that requires the least use to develop addiction and dependence.

Tobacco dependence is only psychological and does not generate symptoms of physical dependence.

Its consumption does not negatively affect brain function, but it does affect physical health, causing multiple organic diseases. Such as liver, kidney, heart disease, etc.

Stimulant drugs

They constitute substances such as cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamines, etc. Its consumption excites brain functioning and causes feelings of euphoria and pleasure.

They are the most addictive drugs since they directly affect the reward mechanisms of the brain. Stimulant substances negatively affect both the body and brain regions, causing a clear deterioration as their consumption is prolonged.

Addiction generates a high psychological dependence that is very difficult to overcome but does not generate physical dependence.

Depressant drugs

They are substances like morphine, codeine or heroin. They are used to calm transitory states of anxiety, producing a strong state of disconnection.

Their addiction is extremely high mainly due to the strong physical dependence that they originate. Thus, in most cases methadone treatment is required for detoxification.

Drug addiction according to dependency

As we have seen, there are three main types of addiction: occasional use, abuse, and drug dependence. In the case of the latter, the type of addiction can also vary, depending on the type of dependence that the drug causes.

There are two main types of substance dependence: psychic dependence and physical dependence. The fact of developing one or the other depends largely on the type of drug that is consumed.

In this way, psychic dependence is usually experienced through addiction to most substances. However, physical dependence appears mainly in subjects addicted to alcohol and opioids such as heroin, codeine or morphine.

Psychic dependence

Psychic dependence refers to dependence on a mental and psychological level towards a substance that the addicted person experiences. Addiction manifests itself through desire and the sense of gratification that the substance causes when it is consumed.

When the person with psychic dependence does not consume the drug, they experience a series of psychological symptoms such as irritability, anxiety or restlessness, referring to the withdrawal syndrome.

These symptoms make the absence of consumption and, therefore, the rehabilitation of addiction very difficult.

The person’s brain has become accustomed to functioning properly only when the substance is present, so when it is not consumed, discomfort is experienced.

Physical dependency

Physical dependence is more serious than psychic dependence since it encompasses the psychological and physical component of the person. In fact, no drug causes only physical dependence, so when this develops, psychological dependence also develops.

This fact means that the person needs to consume the substance in order to function correctly both on a psychological and physical level. Thus, in the absence of the drug, in addition to the aforementioned psychological symptoms, the person may present physical disorders.

These disorders, such as seizures, vomiting, headaches or dizziness can be fatal and make detoxification impossible. SIt is common for addictions in which physical dependence develops to require methadone treatment to achieve rehabilitation.

The administration of methadone allows to replace some of the cerebral effects of the drug (usually heroin), thus avoiding the appearance of physical disorders. Thus, methadone is essential to ensure abstinence and overcome addiction to the substance.


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