There’s no such thing as purely psychological addiction

This is another one of the basic questions I get regarding addiction.

It seems that people think about physical addiction and psychological addiction as somehow separate processes. I think this distinction makes no sense. Even if people really meant what they were saying, the brain is undoubtedly part of the body, and therefore, psychological addictions are also physical.

The “Physical Addiction” Vs. “Psychological Addiction” truth

What people are really referring to when they make this comparison is the distinction between physical withdrawal symptoms that are part of physiological dependence and the addictive process in the brain. There’s no doubt that some substances, like alcohol, opiates, and the likes, leave long term users with horrible withdrawal symptoms that are terrible to watch, and even worse to go through. In fact, early addiction theories asserted that it was this horrible withdrawal syndrome that made people go back to drugs. This was called the Tolerance-withdrawal addiction theory.

Here is a video in which Dr Sadaqat talks about the harmful effects of drug usage
Dr. Sadaqat Ali talks about the harmful side effects of drug addiction


Dr. Adi JaffeDr. Adi Jaffe is an addiction treatment expert trained at UCLA. However, before he got involved in the field of addiction research and treatment, he was a drug dealer and meth addict himself. He incorporates his own personal experience with drugs and his over the top lifestyle into his treatment methodology. After being arrested 4 times and serving two stints in a rehab, he managed to get his life back on track. He has now published several articles and given several speeches on the subject matter of addiction. He now writes for Psychology Today.
Editor: Arman Ahmed


The Tolerance-withdrawal addiction theory fell apart when addictions to substances that didn’t display such withdrawal effects became obvious (like cocaine addiction), and when getting people through the difficult withdrawal proved insufficient to cure their addiction (naltrexone was thought to be the magic cure once upon a time).

physical-addiction-1

In one of my previous posts about marijuana addiction, a reader suggested that since marijuana does not produce horrible withdrawal symptoms, it cannot be physically addictive. While withdrawal from marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, nicotine, and numerous other drugs does not result in the stereotypical “opiate-withdrawal-flu-like-syndrome,” there is no doubt that real withdrawal from these substances exists for long term users and it sucks: Fatigue, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and trouble eating are only some of the symptoms that tend to show up.