Most Common Types Of Addiction Found In Young Adults

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Shorter Version

Est. Reading Time: 1 Minute

When someone mentions addiction, you probably automatically assume they are referring to drugs or alcohol. And, although alcoholism (alcohol addiction) costs the US approximately $250 billion a year and 27 million Americans are addicted to drugs, there are other forms of addiction.

In other words, drugs and alcohol aren’t the only life-altering and common types of addiction crippling adults, especially young adults. The truth is, one out of eight American adults is suffering from some type of addiction. It’s hard to get a definitive answer on how many young adults suffer from addiction because many of the behaviors that signal addiction are ignored, dismissed, or misunderstood.

Some problematic behaviors that signal addiction in young adults include excessive or frequent gambling, an obsession with social media, drug and alcohol use, misuse, and abuse, overeating or exercising, and a preoccupation with appearance and weight loss. 

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Longer Version

Est. Reading Time: 5 Minutes

All types of addiction are dangerous because they have the power and ability to destroy lives – the addict’s life and their loved ones’ lives too. It can cause a mild-mannered girl-next-door to become an impulsive, aggressive, and possibly dangerous criminal – all in the name of their addiction. It can make you feel like you’re “king or queen of the world” one minute and worthless, hopeless, and desperate the next. 

Once you’re addicted, it takes control, rendering you to the mercy of its will. No longer do you have the power to stop. You do what it tells you to do. The good news is, addiction doesn’t have to forever be the star of your life. You can stop it, regardless of the damage it has caused you and your loved ones.

The first step, however, must be seeing all types of addiction for what they are – a disease. And then seeking treatment for your condition. You can heal your addiction. You can say, “STOP” and regain your power. If you are ready to learn more about your addiction so you can heal from it, you’ve come to the right place. Knowledge really is power.

Approximately 70% of violent crimes are committed by addicts. And, approximately 90% of “muggings” and thefts are committed by drug users, abusers, and addicts.

Most common types of addiction found in young adults

Listed below are the most common types of addiction plaguing young adults:


Did you know that alcoholism is connected to over 60 injuries and medical conditions? Well, it’s true.  Specifically, it is linked to 25% of liver cancer, esophageal cancer, epilepsy, cirrhosis of the liver, vehicular injury and homicide, and murder cases worldwide. It also causes approximately 2 million deaths each year. Furthermore, alcoholism is one of the most common causes of violent crimes. 


More and more young adults are becoming addicted to drugs. In fact, opioid addiction continues to rise worldwide, especially in the US. The abuse of illegal drugs and prescription medication threaten the livelihood of those just beginning to experience adulthood.

And, although illegal drug use still reigns supreme when it comes to drug addictions, prescription medications (i.e. OxyContin and Vicodin) have become preferred drug choices amongst many young adults. Indeed, prescription drug abuse has become as mainstream amongst young people as cannabis (pot).

The most popular drugs amongst young adults? Cannabis (marijuana/pot), heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines (meth, “ice,” and “crystal”). With new drugs coming out every year, the war on drug addiction has been long and hard, but with the new crackdown on the influx of illegal drugs, there is hope that we will win this war, reducing or eliminating the power drugs have over millions of young adults throughout the world. 

The “trendier” drugs used by young adults are:

Although opioids continue to be extremely popular amongst all age groups, it has steadily been on the rise amongst young adults. In fact, studies suggest that young adults recreationally ingest more prescription drugs than any other age group. Moreover, many young adults not only abuse illegal and prescription drugs but also combine them with alcohol. This increases their risk of injuries, alcohol-related diseases (cirrhosis of the liver), and even death. 


Cannabis, also referred to as pot, marijuana, weed, chronic, etc., is one of the most cultivated, sold, and used illegal drugs worldwide. Many young adults view smoking pot as a “rite of passage” or a “harmless” activity undertaken by almost all young people at some point in their lives.

The truth is, cannabis interferes with both emotional and cognitive development. It also impedes your ability to perform certain functions and tasks. This includes increasing your risk of car accidents. If that isn’t enough – cannabis use, misuse, or abuse can permanently impair your short-term memory, distort your thought processes, and even trigger or aggravate certain mental health conditions like schizophrenia.

For some, cannabis abuse can lead to a host of health and reproductive issues, such as respiratory issues (bronchial damage) and miscarriages/poor fetal development.


Food addiction is less common, but just as important type of addiction found amongst young adults. A food addiction often presents in the form of an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, bingeing and purging, excessive dieting and/or exercising, or compulsive-eating.

Some adults develop a food addiction because of the variety of healthy food on the market while others develop it because of psychological distress or chronic personal, relationship, financial, and/or job stress.

Conflicting food messages reinforce the idea that one must have an impractical and unreachable (for most young adults) body shape to be desired, which can lead to eating disorders. Commercials, models, and societal pressure can also perpetuate these ideals by sending damaging messages about what it takes to be beautiful, loved, successful, and appreciated in society.


Sex addiction is another one of the most common types of addiction found amongst 20-somethings. Possible causes of sex addiction amongst young adults are online pornography, sexual content found in sitcoms and movies, and media messages that imply that if you’re young and successful you must be having tons of great sex.

Sex addiction also stems from a need or desire to escape reality and be someone else – perhaps, that sexy young person on the screen who is having endless great sex. These individuals develop a sex addiction as a way to ease their anxiety, forget their “troubles,” and act out their obsessions.

Social Media

Lastly, due to the constant influx of social media, young adults spend the majority of their free time on their smartphones. They are scrolling through newsfeeds and profile pages rather than actually talking to and being with each other – i.e. spending quality time with friends and family and/or going out on dates with potential partners.

Social media has taken over the lives of many young adults to the point in which they’d rather spend their evening on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, or Tik Tok than in the warm arms or joyful company of a real human being. This stems from an uncontrollable “urge” to use social media excessively. This can include constantly checking your social media accounts to make sure you haven’t missed something. Or it can be ‘trolling’ or ‘stalking’ social media profiles (not just your own) for hours at a time.

This addiction is damaging in the most subtle ways – at first. Eventually, however, it takes over your life until you’re neglecting many of your responsibilities and forgoing many of the activities you used to love.


Did you know that young adults who are “addicted to smoking” are not actually addicted to cigarettes? They are actually addicted to nicotine. Many young adults develop a nicotine addiction out of habit, popularity, or to ease anxiety and/or stress.

Actionable Steps


Admit that you have a problem

If you suspect you are addicted to something, the first step in the healing process is to be honest with yourself. Admit that you have a problem and cannot “fix” it on your own. Research addictions, especially the one you think you may have, and check off the signs and symptoms that apply to you to determine if there is a high chance you have a dependency problem.


Tell someone

Once you have admitted you have a problem with something, the next step is to share this revelation with someone you trust – a partner, best friend, family member, or counselor. Just like the old saying says, “A closed mouth won’t get fed.” Tell someone what you’re grappling with so they can help you – i.e. offer advice, wisdom, support, etc. You’ll be amazed how much better you’ll feel after sharing some of the weight you’ve been carrying.


Research your options

After you gathered your courage and shared what you’ve been experiencing with a trusted confidant, your next step will be to research your options – i.e. addiction counseling, medication, an alternative or holistic addiction treatment, an outpatient addiction treatment, a residential treatment program, support meetings, etc. 
Ask your trusted confidant to help you research your options, and then sit down and talk about them together. Select several options and weigh the pros and cons of each until you’ve settled on two or three. Write down some questions to ask each mental health professional or addiction specialist about the treatment program – the length of it and its approach. 


Seek help

Once you have selected a few treatment options, set-up consultations with each mental health professional or addiction specialist. In other words, seek help. Ask your trusted friend or loved one to accompany you to the appointments for support. Don’t forget to take your list of questions with you, along with a notebook to write down important information.


Educate yourself about addiction

You can learn more about common types of addiction amongst young adults by reading the following articles: Young Adults Need Guidance to Help Break Addictions by Psych Central, List Of Common Types of Addiction & Recommended Treatment by, and 10 Most Common Types of Addiction by Addiction Center.

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About the Author

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Ph.D. in Family Psychology

Ree has a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (M.M.F.T.) and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She spent over ten years counseling families, couples, individuals, and children on adjustment issues such as blended families, same-sex couples, dysfunctional family relationships, relationship issues, etc. Now she writes for famous health organizations and is a published author.
Full Bio | LinkedIn

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