Kids' Health
Visit website  
Home › Topics › Nearly Teens > 

Addiction - when you just can't stop

drugs; addiction; compulsive; behaviours; smoking; alcohol; inhalants; glue; sniffing; legal; illegal; eating; disorders; exercise;


What is addiction?

'Addiction' is a word that usually refers to drugs. Sometimes it's called 'dependence' but there is a difference in the meanings of these words.

addicted to drugsWhen someone first starts to use drugs, it is called substance abuse. We say someone is addicted to drugs when they have no control over whether they want to use the drug or not. That person feels that they HAVE to have that drug.

But people can be addicted to a whole variety of things which are not usually labelled as 'drugs'.


Types of addiction

There are two types of addiction.

addicted to smoking1 Physical addiction is when a person's body becomes dependent on something.

After a while that person's body craves more and more of whatever it is, so they are able to feel OK. Trying to give up can make that person suffer withdrawal symptoms which can last for quite a long time, but slowly get less as the body gets used to doing without.

These withdrawal symptoms can feel like a really bad dose of flu and make a person feel so sick and depressed that they want to go back to whatever they were taking to feel OK again. It is hard to give up.

2 Psychological addiction is when someone craves something which will change their mood or feelings.

They may not get physical withdrawal symptoms, but they may feel lonely, depressed or anxious if they can't get the thing that they desire.

What can be addictive?

People can become addicted to a wide range of things.

But people can also become addicted to behaviours, which take over their lives...

  1. harmful or risky behaviours - such as breaking things, vandalism, shop stealing
  2. hurting themselves - like cutting their bodies
  3. compulsive behaviours (compulsive means that they feel they have to do it to feel better about themselves).

eating disorderCompulsive behaviours can include:

  • eating disorders, like bingeing on food and then making themselves vomit, or
  • compulsive exercise, where they are constantly exercising to make themselves feel good, but are really harming their bodies (yes, professional athletes need to train a lot to keep their bodies ready to compete, but they are following fitness programs which include food, exercise and sports psychology, based on their sport and themselves).
  • gambling, video games, mobiles and SMS, and chatting on the internet.

addicted to the computer or video games

Signs of addiction

If someone you care about is showing several of these signs, then they could be suffering from an addiction and need help...

  1. when someone uses drugs or alcohol to get away from problems or as a usual way to relax
  2. when someone seems to 'drop out' of life among family and friends
  3. when someone loses interest in something that used to be a big interest
  4. wagging school or work, or getting behind with workload
  5. addictionavoiding friends, or hanging out with kids who use drugs
  6. selling their stuff or stealing yours!
  7. being very moody and behaving in ways which are unlike their usual behaviour
  8. getting upset, anxious or really depressed
  9. having problems with sleeping or getting out of bed
  10. being sick or shaky
  11. changes in eating - maybe too much or not enough, or eating at 'different' times.
  12. putting on weight or rapidly losing weight.
  13. checking their phone, messaging or talking on it even when they are with other people (rude too)
  14. spending a lot of time playing games on their computer or tablet or phone so they don't get to be with 'real people).

If someone you care about is suffering from an addiction

  • Tell that person that you care about them and are worried about what they are doing.
  • Tell someone you trust about it.
  • Do some research on whatever they are using or doing and show them or tell them what you have found.
  • Think about your trusted adults and talk to them until something is done.
  • Encourage them to be more active and join in with others.
  • Keep yourself safe by:
    • asking smokers not to smoke near you (see the topic Passive smoking)
    • avoiding being around someone who is addicted to alcohol or drugs because they may not act as they used to
    • telling someone if you feel unsafe
    • not hanging around with that person or their friends
    • not making the mistake of thinking what that person is doing must be cool because they are older than you
    • never trying whatever drug they are using.
      don't try drugs because you think it's cool

addictionWhat can you do to help?

You cannot really help someone who has an addiction. That person has to help himself or herself.

All you can do is show that you care what happens to him or her, tell those adults you trust about your concerns, and be ready to praise every small step that he or she takes to stop the addiction.


What kids say

  • "My mum and dad split up because of alcohol".
  • "My big sister had to go into hospital because she wasn't eating properly. It was very worrying for all the family".
  • " I felt sad when my friend's brother got killed in his car. He had been drinking a lot of alcohol and he was showing off".
  • "My dad still smokes but mum makes him smoke outside. He doesn't smoke in his car though".
  • "If someone in your family is trying to give up drugs don't shout at them. It's really hard. Just tell them that you love them and want them to be happy".
  • My sister spends all of her time on her phone now. She never wants to do things with me anymore.

    Drugs are bad
    They make you sad
    They can even make you mad.
    They can make you glad
    But not for very long.
    Taking drugs is wrong.
    So, if you want a happy life
    Don't take drugs
    And stay out of strife.

    - Mikayla

Dr Kim says

Dr KimGiving up an addiction is not easy. There are organisations that can help. Someone giving up will need to make a plan on what they will do and when.

It is important that people in the family know and can be ready to help by being patient and supporting that person while their body and mind cope with withdrawal from the drug or behaviour. It may take several tries before that person can start to feel that they have beaten their addiction, but that's what being a family or a friend is about, isn't it? - being there and caring for those you love whatever happens.

This site will tell you more about different drugs 

I'm in charge

Don't tell me what to do!
You make bad choices too!
Don't tell me what to think!
Your own ideas stink!
Don't tell me what to wear!
Look at your clothes and hair!
Don't tell me what to say!
We don't talk like that today!
Don't tell me how to be!
No-one's the boss of me!

So, why do I think it's cool
To let drugs make me a fool?

back to top

We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


Home › Topics › Nearly Teens >