An individual with a substance use disorder is a person who has a pre-occupation with and compulsion to seek and use substances, despite the negative consequences.
Dependent persons, because of long term use, have developed a tolerance to the drug, needing to use more and more of the drug to achieve the same effect as when the drug use first began. This is the physcial (phsysiological) component of addiction and is known as dependency. Dependency can be treated through abstinence and/or in combination with medication.
Normally, the decision to begin using drugs is voluntary. In time however, the effects of drug use limit one's ability to control behavior in a nomal manner; self control is diminished.
Brain scans and imaging studies of addicts show physical changes in areas of the brain that are critical to judgment, decision making, learning, memory, and behavior control. Science also reveals that drug use changes cognitive and behavioral functions leading to feeling out of control and limiting the ability to make wise decisions. Addicts will continue to seek and use drugs despite the obvious negative consequences. These behavioral issues constitute the psychological compenent of addiction. Simply removing the drug from the brain does not alter the desire to coninue in a negative pattern of behavior and certianly does not provide the skills needed to live life on its own terms. In order for an addict to recover, professional assistance is often needed.
We know that there are biological, behavioral, social, and spiritual components to an addiction. These areas all need a certain amount of attention in order to acquire the skills to live life drug free.
Learning new and healthy behaviors is integral to the recovery process. Learning to process thoughts in an effective manner, deal with feelings and emotions, communicating properly, manage stress effectively, deal with guilt and shame, learning coping and decision making skills, and exploring values, are all necesssary in replacing negative behaviors with healthy behaviors.