A treatable disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior. Drug and alcohol use can cause changes in the brain that lead to compulsive use, despite damage incurred to a person’s health and relationships. Genetics, mental illness, and other factors make certain people susceptible to addiction.

Addiction is the preferred term. The term substance use disorder is preferred by some health professionals and is acceptable in some uses, such as in quotations or scientific contexts. Alcoholism is acceptable for addiction to alcohol.

Avoid words like abuse or problem in favor of the word use with an appropriate modifier such as risky, unhealthy, excessive, or heavy. Misuse is also acceptable. Avoid alcoholic, addict, user, and abuser unless individuals prefer those terms for themselves or if they occur in quotations or names of organizations, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Avoid derogatory terminology such as junkie, drunk, or crackhead unless in quotations. Avoid describing sobriety as clean unless in quotations, since it implies a previous state of dirtiness instead of disease.

Not all compulsive behaviors, including shopping, eating, and sex, are considered addictions. Gambling is the only one classified as an addiction in the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual. The World Health Organization says excessive video gaming can be an addiction.

(Source: AP Stylebook)