When we hear the word "addiction", many images come to our mind. We see the falling down drunk. We see a woman who sells her body in exchange for a "fix." We remember a permanently disabled teen in a wheelchair because of a drunk-driving accident. We read about a famous entertainer who died, and another whose sensational sex scandals are splashed across the tabloids. Most of us know a friend or family member, whose lives are affected by addiction. We all know that addiction is a serious problem. But behind that widely held agreement are many disagreements and questions. How big are addiction problems exactly? How does addiction differ from experimentation, misbehavior, and bad habits? What causes addiction? How does one overcome it? How successful is addiction treatment? How should society respond to individuals with addiction? What should governments do about addiction? Is addiction mostly a modern problem? Is the addiction problem getting worse?
This article will not resolve all the passionate debates surrounding these questions. With so much controversy and differences of opinion, it is often difficult to separate fact from opinion, and myth from reality. Therefore, our goal is more modest: To help you, the reader, gain a better understanding of this complex issue so that you can form your own opinions about addiction. In this way, if you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction problem, you can make an informed decision about what to do about it.