Addicted “to,” not “with”

By Maeve Maddox

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Some verbs and participle adjectives are followed by a specific preposition. Different from phrasal verbs, which can be replaced by a single word, prepositional verbs are verbs that stand alone, but are followed by a particular preposition.

The verb addict (and its related forms) is one of these. Its signature preposition is to. For example:

Back in the 1960s and 70s, physicians used to treat alcoholism with Valium, then the patients would get addicted to the Valium.

I was surprised to come across the following sentence in an article in Psychology Today:

Essentially, the loyalty of Trump supporters may in part be explained by America’s addiction with entertainment and reality TV.

One has an addiction to entertainment, not with it.

Going straight to the Ngram Viewer, I searched addicted to and addicted with to see if I was missing a shift in usage. Addicted with flatlined across the graph from 1800 to the present.

Next, I cast about the web in search of the phrase addicted with. My search was impeded by the existence of a book that has “addicted with” in the title.

I found few examples. Most were in readers’ comments, which are notorious for nonstandard usage:

I am still reading, but what I have read up to now has given me insight into how to deal with my family member who is addicted with the drug.”—Reader’s comment on wikiHow article.

Why do people get addicted with someone or something?—Quora comment

However, some examples occurred on the websites of organizations dedicated to fighting addiction and helping its victims.

Alcohol contributed 22% to the population, with 11% reporting as alcohol-only addicts and 10% were cross addicted with alcohol and some other drug.—Alcohol Addiction Center.

I was so addicted with my virtual world that I was truly disconnected with my real life out there.—A psychologist’s blog.

Sometimes with follows addicted to introduce an adverbial phrase of manner.

As hard as it might be, your goal is to approach the birth parent who is addicted with compassion and lack of judgment.

People who take prescription painkillers can become addicted with just one prescription.—Government guidelines.

In an email to Healthline, Purdue officials said . . . it may be necessary to treat people who are already addicted with other drugs.—Healthline.

In these examples, the preposition with introduces an adverb phrase of manner, not the substance to which someone is addicted. The third example is ambiguous, but I assume the phrase describes the treatment.

Addicted and its forms derive from the Latin verb addicere, a compound formed from Latin ad (“to, towards, at”) + dico (“say, affirm, tell”). It could mean simply “to speak favorably” of something, but it also had meanings that lent themselves to various legal uses:

assign, ascribe, appoint, designate, award, sentence, condemn, yield, resign, sacrifice, abandon, surrender, enslave, etc.

Appropriately enough, considering the meaning of the English noun addict, a Roman addictus was a slave—a debt slave who had been bound to his creditor in lieu of payment.

A prepositional verb that does use with and that possibly could be confused with addict is afflict.

afflicted: grievously distressed, tormented; troubled; oppressed, downtrodden.

Here are some examples of afflicted with:

Former workers even now are afflicted with a variety of nerve and skin diseases.

We are trained in our present-day society to attack anyone afflicted with anger.

No, this Chicago team was not afflicted with any meddlesome ball-deflecting fans.

Bottomline: People are addicted to something, not with it.

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1 Response to “Addicted “to,” not “with””

  • Erica

    With mistakes such as this, I often wonder if the error is rooted in another language that uses the word differently. Perhaps another language says “addicted with”, and that phrase has at some point been translated literally by a non-native English speaker. For example, I’m thinking of the French phrase ”fermer les lumieres”, which translates literally to “close the lights” . We could hear that used in English (in place of “turn off the lights) and wonder where on earth someone picked up such a nonstandard phrase.

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