According to Wikipedia, “addiction is a brain disorder characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite adverse consequences. Despite the involvement of a number of psychosocial factors, a biological process — one that is induced by repeated exposure to an addictive stimulus — is the core pathology that drives the development and maintenance of an addiction. The two properties that characterize all addictive stimuli are that they are reinforcing (i.e., they increase the likelihood that a person will seek repeated exposure to them) and intrinsically rewarding (i.e., they are perceived as being inherently positive, desirable, and pleasurable).”*
Addiction may refer to products (alcohol, tobacco, drugs, medications, chocolate or other food, etc.), to behaviors (games, internet, sexuality, food, workaholism, sports overtraining, etc.), to conscious or unconscious patterns (fussiness, overly maniacal, OCD, patterns, etc.).
From a physical point of view, addiction is the ‘seemingly’ incapacity for the body to handle the absence of a substance or a behavior. Seemingly because it is temporary. Of course, the addiction to certain substances or behavior may lead to a sensation of craving, but only temporarily, depending on the power of the substance or the behavior: only 3 days in the case of cigarettes, a few weeks for opiates, accompanied by physical disorders. For a behavior addiction, some external help may be required to understand the process. Afterward, once the period is over, the addiction may seem to be ongoing, only because the behavior and the environment have been involved in the process.
From a cognitive and behavioral perspective, once the period of physical addiction is over, the sensation or the thought of being addicted may remain only because it is the result of a previous propensity to behave accordingly to specific circumstances. For instance, in the case of the cigarette, smoking may have been linked to socialization, or in order to reduce stress, as behavioral tendencies. As long as the association remains in the mind of the person, the craving will continue, but only in the mind, rather than in the physical body.
From an esoteric point of view, addiction is the result of possession by a thought-form that has been created and fed for long. Nourishing a particular thought for many years leads to the creation of an autonomous being, shaped into a specific form which matches the thought. When the thought-form is strong enough, it becomes self-sustained and will hypnotize in return the one who created it, with the result of a ‘win-win’ benefit. Whenever the desire or the thought for the substance rises (apparently randomly), the thought-form is nurtured again and demands to the creator to continue to behave the same way, by falling in the trap of addiction.
Ultimately, the latest, deepest and more difficult addiction to get rid of is the identification of the soul with the ego, which leads to thinking that only exists the ego, and forces us listening to the ego’s suggestions or thoughts, rather than to the intuition of the soul. In fact, ego has never produced any thoughts, as Sri Aurobindo explains (CWSA, Letters on Yoga IV, Book, IV Sadhana on the Level of the Mind, The Mind and Sadhana)
“ Thoughts Come from Outside. First of all, these thought-waves, thought-seeds or thought-forms or whatever they are, are of different values and come from different planes of consciousness. Even the same thought-substance can take higher or lower vibrations according to the plane of consciousness through which the thoughts come in (e.g., thinking mind, vital mind, physical mind, subconscient mind) or the power of consciousness which catches them and pushes them into one man or another. Moreover there is a stuff of mind in each man and the incoming thought uses that for shaping itself or translating itself (transcribing we usually call it), but the stuff is finer or coarser, stronger or weaker etc. etc. in one mind than in another. Also there is a mind-energy actual or potential in each which differs and this mind-energy in its recipience of the thought can be luminous or obscure, sattwic, rajasic or tamasic with consequences that vary in each case. There is no difficulty about explaining [how a thought rejected by one person gets picked up by another]. You are as naive and ignorant as a newborn lamb. That is the way things come, only one does not notice. Thoughts, ideas, happy inventions etc. etc. are always wandering about (in thought waves or otherwise) seeking a mind that may embody them. One mind takes, looks, rejects—another takes, looks, accepts. Two different minds catch the same thought-form or thought-wave, but the mental activities being different make different results out of them. Or it comes to one and he does nothing, then it walks off, crying “O this unready animal!” and goes to another who promptly annexes it and it settles into expression with a joyous bubble of inspiration, illumination or enthusiasm of original discovery or creation and the recipient cries proudly, “I, I have done this.” Ego, sir! ego! You are the recipient, the conditioning medium, if you like—nothing more. That is the silliness of the mind. It is easier for things to come into an empty space than into a full one. The error comes from thinking that your thoughts are your own and that you are their maker and if you don’t create thoughts (i.e. think), there will be none. A little observation ought to show that you are not manufacturing your own thoughts, but rather thoughts occur in you. Thoughts are born, not made—like poets, according to the proverb. Of course, there is a sort of labor and effort when you try to produce or else to think on a certain subject, but that is a concentration for making thoughts come up, come in, come down, as the case may be, and fit themselves together. The idea that you are shaping the thoughts or fitting them together is an egoistic delusion. They are doing it themselves, or Nature is doing it for you, only under a certain compulsion.”