How to Stop an Addiction – Symptoms, Diagnosis, Solutions

How to Stop an Addiction – Symptoms, Diagnosis, Solutions

Addiction is a serious issue, one that affects many Canadians in some way.

If only there was an easy way to know how to stop an addiction from forming, or an easy fix to end one once it’s happened.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as that. However, there are certain things we can do to overcome an addiction to prevent it from hurting ourselves and those around us anymore.

Dealing with Addiction: An Overview

Addiction is a complex disease that affects the brain and the body of the person with it. It’s a serious condition that can require medical attention to treat. If left untreated, those affected may face a variety of mental, physical and life effects, including overdose which can result in serious health complications and even death. 

Statistics Canada reports that in 2012, the highest rates of SUD (substance use disorder) (which can mean addiction) were among those aged between 15 and 24.   

The Canadian Mental Health Association estimates that about 21% of Canadians will have an addiction at some point in their life. 

In 2017, there were 17 hospitalizations due to opioid poisoning a day in Canada and 15,393 deaths related to opioids between January 2016 and December 2019, according to the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.

This data goes to show that dealing with addiction is a Canadian issue, affecting many. 

Although there are ways on how to stop an addiction, it can be a complex issue due to the way addiction can affect the mental, physical, and psychological health of those who struggle with it. 

Habit vs Addiction

habit addiction

A habit is defined as a pattern or tendency of behaviour developed through its repetition. According to Healthline, habits take between 18-254 days to make. Different habits take longer to form than others. A habit can be good or bad, depending on the behaviour, but it’s not inherently either. It’s also a behaviour, not a disease.

An addiction is defined as a need for a particular substance or behaviour that has harmful effects and usually withdrawal symptoms. Addiction is considered a brain disease. It’s a medical condition that often involves professional treatment to be able to work through. 

Below a table outlines some key differences between habit and addiction.

Habit Addiction
Behaviour or Disease Behaviour Disease 
Can be an automatic action  
Can have physical dependency   X
Can be a positive change X  
Can require medical treatment X
Can have withdrawal symptoms   X


Types of Addiction

There is more than one type of addiction, although they are caused by similar things. Different types of addiction include:

  • Drug addiction
  • Prescription drug addiction
  • Alcohol addiction
  • Behavioural addiction

Drug Addiction

Drug (or alcohol) addiction is probably the first type to come to mind when you think of addiction. It’s typically the broader category the others in this list can be categorized under (except behavioural addiction).

Drugs are typically categorized in three ways:

  1. Stimulants
  2. Depressants
  3. Hallucinogens


These types of drugs have different functions.

A stimulant typically stimulates activity in your body and mind and is associated with feelings of euphoria. Cocaine and crystal meth are both stimulants.

A depressant typically does the opposite and slows activity down in your body and mind. It’s associated with feelings of relaxation and lowered inhibitions. Alcohol is a very popular type of depressant.

A hallucinogen, on the other hand, is typically associated with spiritual or intensely sensory experiences. A hallucinogen can cause hallucinations. Mushrooms and LSD are hallucinogenic drugs.

Hallucinogens are not typically considered addictive. In fact, many people don’t think of hallucinogenic drugs as addictive at all. However, according to CAMH (The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health), even though hallucinogens don’t typically cause withdrawal symptoms, and are usually used occasionally, it is possible to develop a psychological dependence on this type of drug. 

Prescription Drug Addiction

prescription drug addiction

Prescription drug addiction is what happens when a dependency develops on a prescribed drug. According to, it typically happens when either the dosage of the prescribed medication needs to continually be increased causing the development of tolerance, or the patient experiences bad withdrawal symptoms when he/she should stop using the drug, so continues to use it.

Opioids, which are used as pain medication, are an example of a commonly prescribed drug that can cause addiction. 9.7% of Canadians who used opioid pain relievers in 2018 “engaged in problematic use,” according to Statistics Canada. That’s roughly 1 in every 10 people who are prescribed (and use) opioid pain medications developing a dependency or “problematic use.”

Benzodiazepines (i.e. Valium and Xanax), which are used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders, are another example of this. However, there are a variety of other medications that can cause addiction as well.

If you are someone prone to addictions, make sure you talk to your doctor about any potentially addictive medications. And make sure your doctor knows all the drugs you’re taking, as certain combinations can be lethal. Use medications only as prescribed and talk to your doctor if you are having any negative side effects or issues, including if they could be signs of addiction.

Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol addiction occurs when someone develops a dependency on alcohol.

According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, alcohol is the most common drug consumed by Canadians by a large margin, and the rate of hospitalizations due to alcohol was 13 times higher than that for opioids in 2017.

Some statistics about alcohol addiction outlined in 6 Facts on Drug and Alcohol Addiction Statistics in Canada are:

  • In Alberta, 19.4% of people use alcohol problematically
  • Over 20% of people over 12 in British Columbia engage in heavy drinking
  • Emergency room visits linked to alcohol consumption have increased from 2003 to 2016 in Ontario

Behavioural Addiction

Behavioural addictions are still addictions, although rather than a particular substance dependency, it’s an addiction to a certain behaviour.

Examples of behavioural addictions are:

  • Gambling addictions
  • Food addictions
  • Sex addictions
  • Internet addictions

Addiction Symptoms

addiction symptoms

Symptoms of addiction can be categorized into different categories. The symptoms can be

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Life-Affecting


And these symptoms can be different depending on the type of drug (stimulant, depressant, hallucinogen, opioid).

Behavioural addictions will have slightly different symptoms, although there will be some overlap.

If you or someone you know is dealing with addiction, either firsthand or indirectly through someone else, you may recognize some of these signs.

Type of Drug Physical Mental  Life-Affecting
Stimulant Short Term Effects:

  • Sleeplessness
  • Appetite loss
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased body temperature
  • Chest palpitations
  • Vomiting

Long Term Effects:

  • Weight loss or gain
  • Insomnia
Short Term Effects:

  • Alert and focused
  • Increased activity
  • Improved confidence

Long Term Effects:

  • Paranoia
  • Agitation
  • Aggression
Money trouble


Isolation from family and friends

Issues at work or school

Depressant Short Term Effects:

  • Slows brain functions
  • Vomiting
  • Coma

Long Term Effects:

  • Seizures
  • Death
  • Painful withdrawal
Short Term Effects:

  • Drowsiness
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Lowered anxiety
  • Memory loss
Money trouble


Isolation from family and friends

Issues at work or school

Hallucinogen Short Term Effects:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry mouth
Short Term Effects:

  • Heightened feelings
  • Heightened sensory experiences
  • Change in perception of time
  • Relaxation
  • Spiritual
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis

Long Term Effects:

  • Persistent Psychosis
  • Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)
Money trouble


Isolation from family and friends

Issues at work or school

Opioid Short Term Effects:

  • Constipation
  • Slow breathing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Death

Long Term Effects:

  • Long painful withdrawals
  • Liver damage
  • Infertility in women
Short Term Effects:

  • Euphoria
  • Relaxation
  • Indifference
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
Money trouble


Isolation from family and friends

Issues at work or school

Source 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Behavioural Addictions

Although someone with behavioural addiction’s life may be affected the same way someone’s with a drug addiction would, there are not the same sort of physical and mind-altering symptoms.

One study suggests that if someone with behavioural addiction is attempting to get help, medical professionals should look into why, because unlike other psychiatric disorders where the affected person would be looking to alleviate symptoms, people with behavioural addictions will still feel compelled to engage in the addictive activity, even with the issues affecting their lives.

Addiction Causes

addiction causes

Before discussing how to stop an addiction, it’s important to understand what can cause it.

The cause of addiction is using a drug to the point of dependency. For some people that might just take once, for others it will happen with repeated use. Continual use of a drug will affect your brain’s ability to control the impulse as it should, as outlined in the Comprehensive Guide to Addiction and the Brain.

However, there are other potential causes or risk factors for addiction. Some of these include:

Childhood trauma: There’s an unfortunate connection between those who experienced childhood trauma and those with a substance dependency. Those with recent physical or sexual childhood trauma make up 66% of addicts, according to Ben Lesser’s The Tragic Connection Between Childhood Trauma and Addiction as an Adult

Genetics: Those with a family history of substance abuse may be more at risk of developing dependencies, as 40-60% of the risk stems from genetics.

Mental health: According to CAMH, you’re twice as likely to develop SUD if you have a mental illness than the general public.

Addiction Diagnosis

Addiction diagnosis will need to be done by a healthcare professional. If you are struggling with addiction, you can speak with your doctor for a diagnosis and a treatment plan outlining how to stop the addiction for you. 

Other doctors or healthcare professionals can also diagnose you. 

According to Maple, for instance, the doctor will need to ask you questions about the substance in question, your physical and mental health, prior treatments (if there are any) for addiction, if there’s a history of addiction in your family … etc. 

Some of these questions will be things a family doctor may already know. However, if you don’t have a family doctor, there are other ways to get diagnosed and get your treatment plan on (hopefully) how to stop an addiction for you. 

Overcoming Addiction: Top 6 Solutions

overcoming addiction

There are many solutions to overcoming addiction available to those with a substance dependency. All solutions listed on how to stop an addiction involve receiving addiction treatment. 

Drug & Alcohol Intervention

An intervention can be an effective first step in overcoming addiction. This will allow the person with the addiction to be confronted about it in a supportive setting surrounded by family and friends, and a treatment plan can be discussed.

Although interventions can be an informal affair just with people the person with the addiction knows, it’s always a good idea to have a professional there as well. Intervention services professionals like Andy Bhatti will be able to meet with the family first, and then organize the intervention with the family and the person with the addiction and oversee it to make sure everything goes well. Andy Bhatti also has many connections to different addiction services to aid in the creation of an effective treatment plan so the one with a dependency issue can learn how to stop an addiction for him/her.

Rehab Center

A rehab, or rehabilitation, center is a place, typically staffed by healthcare professionals, that can help someone suffering from substance dependency get treatment in getting over addiction. There are different types of rehab centers, offering different types of programs, of different lengths.

Some are private, which typically means they offer more variety in programs and amenities, but at a higher price. Some are government-funded. These centers tend to have more standard programs and amenities, but for a lower price.

Rehab centers can also offer both (or either) inpatient or outpatient care.

Detox Center

A detox center is a place where someone addicted to drugs can detox while being supervised by medical professionals to ensure he/she is safe. Detoxing is the process of allowing the drug or addictive substance naturally run its course through your body so you are no longer intoxicated by it. This process can cause severe withdrawal symptoms, even being potentially dangerous, which is why it’s recommended detox happens at a designated center for detox. That way healthcare workers can ensure the person struggling with substance dependency remains as safe and comfortable as possible.

Staying at a detox center on its own is not a treatment plan. However, detox can be the first step of a recovery program in how to breaking an addiction.

Inpatient Care

Inpatient (or residential) care is when someone getting treatment for addiction lives in the treatment center for as long as he/she is getting treatment. Living in the treatment center means the patient has access to 24/7 care. As mentioned in the Complete Guide on Where and How to Get Help for Addiction, this type of treatment is typically used for those with severe addictions or without a safe place to go.

An example of an inpatient care facility is Cedars at Cobble Hill, a residential addiction treatment center located on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. 

Outpatient Care

Outpatient care is when someone getting treatment to quit addiction lives outside the treatment center but comes into the treatment center as scheduled for as long as he/she is getting treatment. This type of treatment allows the addicted person to maintain his/her responsibilities (like a job, or childcare). However, as addressed in the previously mentioned Complete Guide, it’s typically used for those with less intense addiction severities.

Sober Living Homes

Sober living homes are homes staffed by healthcare professionals where those seeking addiction treatment can live in an alcohol and/or drug-free environment. These types of homes offer all different types of therapy and amenities. People at all different levels of addiction can choose to live in a sober living home, from those who are employed or going to school, to those whose addictions have a greater effect on their lives.

Sunshine Coast Health Center is an example of a sober living home in British Columbia. 

If you want to learn more about sober living homes, check out A Practical Guide to Sober Living in Canada.

Find the Solution for You

To find the right addiction treatment for you or a loved one fighting addiction, you can talk to a healthcare professional or use directory services like Canada Drug Rehab

3 Tips in Fighting Addiction

Fighting addiction is no easy task. However, it can be done successfully. 3 tips to increase the odds of success for how to stop an addiction are:

  1. Seek addiction treatment
  2. Have a long-term/aftercare treatment plan
  3. Live a healthy lifestyle

Seek Addiction Treatment

The first tip in fighting addiction is to seek professional help with addiction treatment. In a 2017 study by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, 91.8% of people in recovery reported using a 12-step mutual support group and 60.6% a residential addiction treatment program, with 51.2% reporting they hadn’t had a single relapse and 19.4% reporting they’d had between 2 and 5. These numbers can be considered promising for the effectiveness of seeking treatment in overcoming addiction (and potentially using multiple treatment methods, as the report claims the average number of resources used was 6). 

It’s also been suggested by The National Institute on Drug Abuse that the amount of time in addiction treatment can affect how successful a patient is likely to be in overcoming addiction, with success being limited in treatment that’s less than 90 days. 

Have a Long-Term/Aftercare Treatment Plan

To do your best to protect against relapse, it’s important to have a long-term or aftercare treatment plan, for what to do once you’re no longer in your addiction treatment program.

For instance, if you were completing a residential rehab program, what are you going to do once you get out to help ensure you stay sober? 

Maybe you’ll join support groups or an outpatient program. Maybe you’ll begin addiction counselling.

You should be able to talk to a healthcare professional or staff at your addiction treatment center about forming a plan for long-term or aftercare treatment. 

Live a Healthy Lifestyle

Really, this is part of an aftercare treatment plan, but it can be beneficial to live a healthy lifestyle after leaving addiction treatment. You can begin (or continue) an exercising regimen, eat healthily, look after your mental health, maintain healthy relationships with loved ones, and avoid triggers. 

In that same 2017 Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction study, 85.4% of respondents reported quality of life, 67.3% mental health or emotional reasons, 64% marital, family, or other relationship reasons, and 57.1% reported physical health as reasons for maintaining their recovery.  



Are addictions permanent?

This can depend on what you mean. Addiction is a treatable disease, in which a person can stop being dependent on the substance, and stop using it. However, there may always be a craving for the substance. And typically it’ll be advised you never use the substance again, even if it’s a legal substance like alcohol. 

Can you overcome addiction without rehab?

Although it is possible to overcome addiction without rehab, rates of relapse are higher and success lower. According to a study done in 2006, those with alcohol use disorders that didn’t seek help were more likely to relapse and be unsuccessful in achieving 3-year remission.

It’s also always best to speak with a doctor or trained healthcare professional on how to stop an addiction in the best way for you because the detox process and withdrawal symptoms can be painful and even potentially dangerous for certain individuals with substance dependencies. 

In Summary

There are many strategies for overcoming addiction. However, the main strategy is to reach out and receive treatment from qualified professionals.

If you or someone you love is struggling with drug addiction, take the first step to recovery and contact Andy Bhatti to discuss intervention or treatment plans. 

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