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The Most Common Non-Drug Addictions

Drug and alcohol addiction is a serious problem that ruins people’s lives and health. Most people understand that certain substances are so addictive that physical dependence can form quickly. Someone can become addicted to opioids in a matter of days, and sometimes sooner. What is less understood is that people can become addicted without an addictive substance.

Non-drug addictions can damage lives just as badly as drugs or alcohol. Like substance addictions, behavioral addictions become compulsive. People with behavioral addictions get the same dopamine boost from their addictive behaviors as other people do from drugs and alcohol. These behaviors consume their attention and derange their priorities. They can’t quit the behaviors and they experience withdrawal if they try. These addictions can cost people their jobs, their money, and their families and must be taken seriously. Here are some of the most common non-drug addictions.


This is one of the best-studied behavioral addictions. Eating addiction is insidious because we all need to eat to live. In some people, eating is so strongly rewarded that they just can’t stop. This can lead to weight gain that causes health and mobility problems. Some food addicts eat as much as 10,000 calories per day. It would take the average person four or five days to eat that much. It can be really expensive, especially if the weight gain impairs your ability to work.


Like food, sex is a deeply rooted biological drive that sometimes becomes too strong to control. The toll sex addiction can have on long-term relationships is perhaps obvious. Like other addictions, sex addiction can crowd out other priorities and lead to risky behavior.


Gambling exploits one weird trick in your brain: variable reward. That means the rush you get from winning is extra huge because it’s not guaranteed. Every losing spin of the wheel raises the stakes, and when you finally win, you feel much better than you would have if you consistently won a little at a time. In this regard, gambling has drugs beat. Someone hooked on prescription opioids knows exactly what reward to expect every time. Street drugs have a bit of variable reward built in because of inconsistent quality, but casinos–and now, Silicon Valley–have variable reward down to a science. They know exactly how to take all your money and get you to come back.


Porn addiction uses mostly the same circuits as sex addiction. Now that porn is ubiquitous online, there is the added factor of novelty, which makes the addiction more intense. A quick Reddit search of “addiction” suggests that everyone on Reddit is either actively addicted to porn or in porn addiction recovery.

Every addiction is serious, whether or not it involves a substance. It takes your money, your relationships and your freedom. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at