Talking Mental Health with Dr. Peter Ventre

Peter Ventre, MD

Peter Ventre knows from his years of professional experience, that ridding oneself of an addiction is much more difficult than it sounds. For those who have never suffered from an addiction, the solution seems as simple as setting the addiction aside and walking away from it. Those who have known addiction or who are still suffering with one however, know that giving it up can often feel like giving up breathing or an integral part of themselves.

September is National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month in the United States. In honor of this national awareness program, Dr. Peter Ventre would like to take this opportunity to more closely examine the nature of addiction. By better understanding the psychology and chemistry behind addiction, Dr. Ventre hopes more people will see the need for getting proper addiction recovery help for any friend or loved one who may be suffering from an addiction.

What is an Addiction?

Addiction used to be easier to pin down with a definition, says Dr. Peter Ventre, because it used to simply mean a chemical dependence on drugs or alcohol. In these cases of addiction, the body becomes used to the presence of certain substances within the addictive product. When these substances deplete, the body believes that it is missing something vital to its continued health. This leads to feelings of discomfort, pain, stress, etc. until the substance is reintroduced.

However, more recently, the definition of addiction has been expanded beyond the realm of chemical dependency. Addiction, it has been discovered, can also develop in some individuals around certain behaviors which most other individuals would not find addicting. These are called “behavioral addictions,” and they have much more to do with psychology than with chemistry.

What Do Addictions Have in Common?

Whatever form an addiction may take, says Dr. Peter Ventre, there are two criteria that all addictions meet.

  • First, an addiction is persistent. This means that somebody engaging in a self-destructive behavior once or twice is not addicted to it, regardless of what other issues may occur as a result. Those with addictions are those who regularly and habitually engage in the behavior in question. This habit formation can sometimes prove just as damaging as the addictive substance or behavior itself.

For example, says Dr. Peter Ventre, an individual who drinks to excess over the course of a weekend does not necessarily have an addiction to alcohol. But an individual who drinks to excess most evenings as part of their daily routine very likely does.

  • Second, an addiction is maladaptive. This means that the pursuit of the addiction is counter-productive to the addicted individual’s health and, oftentimes, even to the goal which they seek to achieve through the addiction itself. This leads to the addiction undermining the pursuits of the addicted, which they then seek to address through further pursuit of the addiction, creating a vicious cycle. Despite this, addicted individuals cannot stop this pursuit.

For example, Dr. Peter Ventre explains, someone with a gambling addiction may have initially pursued gambling as a means of gaining more money yet ended up with a gambling addiction due to the rush and excitement Gambling addiction, also known as compulsive gambling, is a type of impulse-control disorder. Compulsive gamblers can’t control the impulse to gamble, even when they know their gambling is hurting themselves or their loved ones. Gambling is all they can think about and all they want to do, no matter the consequences. Compulsive gamblers keep gambling whether they’re up or down, broke or flush, happy or depressed. Even when they know the odds are against them, even when they can’t afford to lose, people with a gambling addiction can’t “stay off the bet.”

Gamblers can have a problem, however, without being totally out of control. Problem gambling is any gambling behavior that disrupts your life. If you’re preoccupied with gambling, spending more and more time and money on it, chasing losses, or gambling despite serious consequences, you have a gambling problem.

What Are Some Common Addictions?

Again, the most widespread addictions are those dealing with drugs, alcohol, and similar chemical substances upon which the body builds a dependency. And indeed, these substance addictions are consistently among the most common addictions to be found within the United States.

However, explains Dr. Peter Ventre, behavioral addictions also come in many common forms. Some of these behavioral addictions have become so widespread that the general public recognizes them as easily as addictions dealing with drugs or alcohol.

Some of the most common addictions of any sort, in no particular order, include the following:

  • Alcohol
  • Drugs
  • Tobacco Products
  • Food
  • Caffeine
  • Gambling
  • Sex
  • Work
  • Shopping
  • Video Games
  • The Internet
  • Texting
  • Mass Media

Dr. Peter Ventre Discusses Problems with Addiction

“A lot of people suffering from addiction do not realize that they are suffering from an addiction,” says Dr. Peter Ventre. “This is because the pursuit of most addictions brings pleasure to the addicted, despite any damage it may be causing. Somebody with a work addiction, for example, may see themselves as simply dedicated to their jobs, while from the outside they are clearly running themselves into the ground with stress and alienating friends and family.”

Drugs and alcohol represent especially damaging addictions because of their objectively damaging effects. Explains Dr. Ventre, “Many abused substances, particularly drugs, are dangerous even in small doses. This, and their tendency to be illegal, only exacerbates the problems of addiction.”

The chemical dependency created by substance addictions also makes them harder to kick than behavioral addictions, as psychological therapy is often not enough. Because of this, says Dr. Peter Ventre, it is especially important for those addicted to drugs and alcohol to seek professional recovery help.


Dr. Peter Ventre is the founder and owner of Ventre Medical Associates, a psychiatric clinic located in the Fort Lauderdale, FL area. Here, Dr. Ventre and his colleagues do extensive work with patients and clients of any and every age, from pediatric to geriatric care. They also work closely with the patients of many local area hospitals. In all of their work, the psychiatric professionals at Ventre Medical Associates specialize in providing a wide range of help on a variety of mental health issues from common anxiety disorders to severe psychosis, alcohol and drug abuse, and addiction. Ventre Medical Associates works closely with Dr. Ventre’s sister company, Research Centers of America which conducts clinical drug trials for potentially new psychiatric treatments and medications. Dr. Ventre himself has been practicing psychiatry since receiving his doctoral degree in 2001. Along with his work at Ventre Medical, he is also the Medical Director for the Florida rehabilitation centers Destination Hope and Recovery First, Ventre Medical Associates is also contracted with Broward Heath Imperial Point Hospital and Broward General Hospital to provide acute care and stabilization services to psychiatric patients. Dr. Ventre won the “Most Compassionate” Award from in 2011 for his many achievements in the field of psychiatric care.