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Addiction: An information guide 


This guide was written for people who are having problems related to alcohol and other drug use, their families, and anyone else wanting to gain a basic understanding of addiction, its treatment and management. The guide does not replace treatment from a physician or addiction treatment professional, but it could be used as a basis for questions and discussion.

Addiction can be hard to talk about. For starters, people often don’t agree on what addiction is. The term is used to describe anything from a desire to have or do something that gives pleasure, to a medical issue, to an uncontrollable compulsion. Because of this confusion, health and social service workers tend to avoid the word “addiction.” When they talk about addiction to alcohol and other drugs, as we will in this booklet, they tend to use the less loaded terms “substance use problems” and “substance dependence.” We too will use these terms, but we will also use “addiction” because it is the term most people use when they talk about substance use as a problem.

This guide is divided into seven chapters. Chapters 1 and 2 are written for anyone with an interest in the topic of addiction. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 are more clearly directed to people with substance use problems, and chapters 6 and 7 are written for their families. You can read the guide from cover to cover, or you may prefer to skip to particular sections of interest to you. At the end of the guide, we list agencies, websites and books that can give you more information and assistance.

We hope this guide helps you to understand what addiction is, what is thought to cause it, how it may affect your life, and what you can do to change it.


  1. What is addiction?
  2. What causes addiction?
  3. Frequently asked questions about addiction
  4. Help for people with addiction
  5. Change, recovery and relapse prevention
  6. Help for partners and families
  7. Explaining addiction to children





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