What is addiction? Age-related differences in the meaning of addiction

Laurie Chassin, Clark Presson, Jennifer Rose, Steven J. Sherman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


In a sample of families from a midwestern community study of cigarette smoking, we examined adolescents' and adults' definitions of "addiction", and related these definitions to their perceived addictiveness of cigarette smoking. Both adolescents and adults viewed addiction as multi-faceted, including both appetitive aspects and compulsive aspects. However, for adolescents, the two dimensions were equally important to the overall meaning of addiction, whereas for adults, the compulsive dimension was more important than was the appetitive dimension. The two dimensions of addiction were related to the perceived addictiveness of smoking, but differently for adolescents and adults. For adolescents, the appetitive dimension was a significant predictor whereas, for adults, the compulsive dimension was significant (and appetitive scores were predictive only at high levels of endorsement of the compulsive factor). These findings have potential implications for prevention programs for adolescents. Adolescents may perceive messages about "addiction" as communicating that the behavior in question has appetitive value in addition to a potential for inducing loss of control, and this may weaken the effectiveness of these messages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-38
Number of pages9
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 23 2007


  • Adolescents
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Definitions of addiction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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