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Causes of addiction and how it can affect you

Addiction means not being able to control doing, taking or using something. This can be to a point where it is harmful to you.

It can mean continuing to use a substance or continuing with a certain behaviour. Even if it is having a negative impact for you or those around you.

You can have an addiction to:

  • gambling
  • drugs - illegal and prescription drugs
  • alcohol
  • nicotine

Other things include:

  • the internet
  • gaming
  • solvents

Causes of addiction

Some drugs can create addiction or dependence much quicker than others. Some people may be more vulnerable to experiencing addiction than others.

Drug addiction can start with experimental use of a drug with other people. For some people, the drug use becomes more frequent. As your drug use increases you may find it harder to go without the drug.

How addictions can affect you

Addiction can affect people in different way.

It could impact on:

  • your relationships, work life or studies
  • how you think, feel and behave
  • your physical and mental health, and wellbeing

Using illegal drugs could also get you into trouble with the law.

Signs of addiction

Signs of addiction include:

  • a strong desire or compulsion to take a substance
  • focusing on and spending much of your time on using a substance or participating in the behaviour
  • continuing even though you know it is harmful
  • cravings
  • tolerance to a substance – needing more to get the same effects
  • withdrawal symptoms - unpleasant physical or psychological symptoms that happen when you stop using a substance
  • giving up other activities that are not related to your addiction
  • repeated attempts to quit
  • needing more to get the same feeling
  • using or engaging in the behaviour to stop certain feeling
  • neglecting other areas of your life, including relationships, your health, career or studies

Getting help for addictions

Talk to your GP for advice. You can also contact an organisation that helps people with addiction.

Visit for information about drug and alcohol services

Visit for information about alcohol

Contact the HSE Drugs and Alcohol Helpline for information and support

Freephone the Samaritans on 116 123 to talk about any type of addiction.

If you have a gambling addiction

If you think that you may have a problem with gambling, speak to your GP or healthcare provider to get support.

Treating compulsive gambling can be challenging because many people have a hard time admitting that they have a problem. Accepting that there is a problem is an important step in treatment and recovery.

Get advice about gambling addiction -