Mental Health & Wellness

Understanding Addiction

Unsplash_ladyWhat is Addiction?

An addiction is a habit or behaviour that is very hard to stop and interferes with a person’s life. Addictions can include dependence on a substance such as alcohol or a drug, or an activity like gambling.

What are the signs and symptoms of an addiction?

Many people drink alcohol, use drugs or gamble without having problems. However, some will find that they have “crossed over a line” and have lost the ability to make reasonable decisions.

The signs of an addiction vary widely, depending on the problem and the person. A drug or activity is a problem when it:

  • affects mental and physical health
  • involves breaking the law (if the person is drinking and driving, or using illegal drugs)
  • threatens financial stability
  • harms relationships and friends
  • causes problems with work or school

How are family members affected?

Family members usually learn ways to cope with problems connected to addiction. They may:

  • communicate less
  • avoid talking about the problem or expressing their feelings
  • hide the addiction from the community
  • take on responsibilities neglected by the person with the addiction
  • feel frustrated, angry, resentful, lonely, scared, and ashamed

Source: Centre for Addiction & Mental Health

Should I get help with my addiction?

How can you tell if you need help with alcohol, tobacco, other drugs or gambling? Answer the following questions in this self-assessment. They will help you decide.

  • Does the time you spend on your addiction take you away from family and friends? Do you ever lose track of time and stay away longer than you planned?
  • Are you having financial problems because so much of your money goes to alcohol, tobacco, other drugs or gambling? Do you often spend more money than planned?
  • Are you having relationship problems with family or with friends because of your activity? Have family or friends ever told you that they think you have a problem?
  • Have you had problems with your responsibilities at home, work, or school because of your activity or use?
  • Has your physical health changed? Do you feel tired, sick, or stressed? Do physical activities that used to be normal now make you tired?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be time to make a change.

Source: Nova Scotia Addiction Services

Where to Get Help & More Information

Nova Scotia Addiction Services offers services for everyone looking to get information, advice and support for individuals worried about their behaviour and/or for their families. It's never too soon – or too late – to get help. Even if the person is not ready to make a change just yet, they and their families can still get information, advice and support.

For adults and young adults (19 and over) visit the Addiction Programs website to find the service nearest to you. You can call the phone number listed in the website nearest where you live.

For children (under 19 years old), visit the IWK Health Center Mental Health and Addictions Programs website or call:

  • Halifax: 902-470-8888
  • Toll Free in NS 1.888.470.5888

You do not need a referral. Your call is kept confidential. You can request an interpreter if you feel you need one. All their services are free.

Information about Addiction in Different Languages - Read the fact sheet on Understanding Addiction