Addiction Information and Resources


What is addiction?

Addiction is a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence. People with addiction (severe substance use disorder) have an intense focus on using a certain substance(s), such as alcohol or drugs, to the point that it takes over their life. They keep using alcohol or a drug even when they know it will cause problems. 

What is a chemical addiction?

Substance dependence is the medical term used to describe abuse of drugs or alcohol or a chemical addiction that continues even when significant problems related to their use have developed. Signs of dependence include:

  • Tolerance to or need for increased amounts of the drug to get an effect
  • Withdrawal symptoms that happen if you decrease or stop using the drug that you find difficult to cut down or quit
  • Spending a lot of time to get, use, and recover from the effects of using drugs
  • Withdrawal from social and recreational activities
  • Continued use of the drug even though you are aware of the physical, psychological, and family or social problems that are caused by your ongoing drug abuse

What is a process addiction?

Process addictions occur when someone becomes addicted to a rewarding behavior that does not involve an addictive substance. Sometimes referred to as behavioral addictions, or compulsive behaviors, process addictions involve compulsion to perform an action despite negative consequences. In this way people can suffer from dependence on certain processes — they are reliant upon and/or controlled by the addiction as their primary way of dealing with life. While the theory about behavioral addictions has been around for a while, only recently have we been able to look at the brain and determine how processes can in fact become addictive in the same way as addictive substances. Below are common process addictions:

  • Gambling
  • Sex
  • Work
  • Spending or compulsive buying
  • Internet or Gaming
  • Sex and Love
  • Eating

Signs and symptoms

Individuals who struggle with addiction often try to conceal their symptoms and downplay their problem. Here is a list of warning signs for you to be aware of so that you can monitor your own behaviors, and the behaviors of your friends or loved ones:

  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming habits
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination
  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school
  • Unexplained financial problems; borrowing or stealing
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
  • Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies
  • Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities)
  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude
  • Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness
  • Lack of motivation; appears lethargic or "spaced out"
  • Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid

Using or abusing substances can be a way that people try to cope with their stress. If you begin to notice that you and/or another student is starting to lean on alcohol or other drugs in order to cope with life’s stressors, please come to SASSI and speak with one of our counselors. This is a common way that individuals attempt to try and “deal” with the things that life throws at them, but this doesn’t make it safe. Prevention is key in order to protect your academic, professional, and personal future.

Local help centers and support for addiction

Get help from local support groups and other services in your community

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) helps people with problems controlling how much alcohol they drink, and who wish to stop drinking.
  • Al-Anon supports people affected by alcoholic family members or friends.
  • Narcotics Anonymous (N.A.) assists people who want to stop abusing prescription or illegal drugs.
  • NAR-Anon supports people affected by someone using and abusing drugs.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers veterans and their families support services for addiction:

  • The VA treatment center can have substance abuse disorder (SUD) treatment programs or a VA medical center with mental health specialists
  • Contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online with a VA responder, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Additional Resources