What Is Addiction?

Scientists from the National Institute on Drug Abuse answer common questions teens ask about drug use and addiction. The episode What Is Addiction? introduces viewers to the brain’s reward pathway, brain development and how addiction science continues to advance treatment and prevention of substance use disorder.

What Is Addiction?

Video length: 1:34



[Female voice over] What is addiction?

[Amy speaking]

So, I will say, for me, when I was 14 years old I had no idea what addiction was. I had never heard of the word until unfortunately I had a family friend pass away from a heroin overdose, and then the word addiction started coming up, addiction, heroin addiction.

[Emily speaking]

Addiction is a brain disease that results from repeated use of a substance. This causes changes in the reward circuitry of the brain and makes the inhibitory circuitry of the prefrontal cortex less strong. This leads to compulsive use of the drug despite the negative impact that that compulsive drug use has on a person's life.

PULLOUT: The prefrontal cortex helps you think, make decisions, and control your actions.

[Renata speaking]

So, it's using a substance despite having negative consequences. So, not having control of how much you drink or how much drug you use

[Emily speaking]

Addiction can feel very scary, especially if someone in your family has an addiction and it can feel like life is out of control. But it's important to keep in mind that addiction science is working so hard on breakthroughs to try to improve people's lives and to improve prevention of drug use and addiction, to improve treatment that is given for addiction and to help people stay in recovery after they achieve it.

[Female voice over] For more information check out teens dot drug abuse dot gov.