What is it?

Many teenagers face some form of addiction at some point in their life. Although addiction to drugs is most commonly reported – alcohol and nicotine in particular – there are a number of other substances and activities that create the same sense of dependency and resistance to withdrawal. These include gaming, gambling, sex, pornography, food, exercise, the Internet and other technology such as mobile phones, work and compulsive buying.


Addiction is a clinical condition. It is different to overuse of a substance or activity. It has a clear craving component, is compulsive with increasing tolerance to what the original effect was, it affects the individual in a negative way and the person feels out of control of the behaviour and is unable to stop it even with effort. Withdrawal symptoms occur if the behaviour is discontinued for even a short period of time. There are various factors contributing to addiction including genetics, brain chemistry, life experiences, individual characteristics, social setting and upbringing. Addiction responds well to a consistent and targeted treatment approach and needs monitoring for relapse. Addiction can occur for a substance – for example alcohol or an activity for example, gambling.

Typical addictions and symptom


  • Physical
    • Bloodshot eyes or changed pupil size.
    • Changes in eating and sleep patterns.
    • Sudden weight loss or weight gain.
    • Deterioration in physical appearance, personal grooming.
  • Behavioural
    • Changes in attendance and performance at school.
    • Unexplained money problems or requirements.
    • Changes in friends, favourite places to be.
    • Erratic and often illogical behaviour, agitation or lethargy.
  • Psychological
    • Sudden and erratic mood swings.
    • Spaced out and often lack of motivation.
    • Fearful, anxious, paranoid with no reason.
    • May hear voices.
  • Situational
    • Drug paraphernalia such as unusual pipes, cigarette papers, small weighing scales, butane lighters, eye drops, etc.
    • Stashes of drugs, often in small plastic, paper or foil packages.
    • Empty bottles of alcohol, plastic bottles which are filled with alcohol.
    • Missing prescriptions, alcohol, household cleaners, other solvents.



  • Most non-school hours are spent on the computer or playing video games.
  • Falling asleep in school because of long hours spent on the internet.
  • Lying about computer or video game use.
  • Choosing to use the computer or play video games, rather than see friends.
  • Being irritable when not playing a video game or being on the computer.
  • Agitation and panic if away from use of computer game or internet.
  • Speech, actions and thoughts influenced by the content of the games.
  • Stealing to support gaming.




  • Gambling with money that’s supposed to be used for something else (eg. lunch, bus fare)
  • Experiencing mood swings and feeling stressed when not gambling regularly.
  • Stressed when reducing gambling or trying to stop.
  • Borrowing or stealing money.
  • Talking about gambling being a good way to make easy money.
  • Displaying unexplained large amounts of cash and other material possessions from time to time.
  • Bragging about winnings.
  • Starting to place large and larger bets.
  • Lying or being secretive about gambling.
  • Keeping on gambling to win back lost money.