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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.

Addiction can be to a substance or behaviour.

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.

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 wellbeing, mental and physical health

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

Signs to look out for are:

  • A strong desire or compulsion to take the substance
  • Focusing on and spending much of your time using a substance/ 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
  • Giving up other activities that aren’t related to using/behaviour
  • 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

Whatever the addiction, there are lots of ways you can seek help. 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.

Free phone the Samaritans free on 116 123 to talk about any type of addiction.

page last reviewed: 21/03/2019
next review due: 21/03/2022

Do you need to talk to someone right now?

Free call Samaritans 116 123