Addiction is a disease
Most of us have witnessed someone suffering from an alcohol or drug addiction. We may have wondered, “Why do they continue to do that to themselves?” or “Why don’t they just stop and get their life together?”. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as most people may think. Why? Addiction is a disease.
Addiction changes the brain
Addiction is a brain disease. Although addiction starts with a voluntary decision to use drug or alcohol, with prolonged use, the individual will eventually lose his/her ability to simply stop using. This is because prolonged usage of drugs and alcohol change a person’s brain. The brain undergoes a series of changes or neuroadaptations after repeated drug or alcohol exposure. The result is a disease, a brain disease expressed as a compulsive behavior known as addiction (Leshner, 2001). The transition from voluntary user to full blown addict happens before the person can identify a problem.
Drugs and alcohol affect the “reward circuit” in the brain. A normal functioning reward system motivates people to repeat behaviors that are pleasurable. Such behaviors include eating and spending time with loved ones. When a person habitually uses drugs or alcohol, it causes a surge of dopamine to the brain, resulting in feelings of pleasure. Behaviors such as eating and spending time with loved ones no longer produce a pleasurable experience because these activities do not release the same level of dopamine. To put this in perspective, drugs may release two to 10 times the amount of dopamine that natural rewards release, depending on the drug (Hardee, 2017). As the person becomes less and less able to enjoy basic pleasures such as food, social activities and sex, the individual will turn to drugs and alcohol to regain that pleasurable feeling. Unfortunately, the individual will begin to build a tolerance and eventually will need more of the drug of his/her choice to achieve the same level of pleasure.
Those addicted to drugs or alcohol are usually aware of the harmful outcomes associated with prolonged drug and alcohol use. Even with this knowledge, those suffering from the disease of addiction will continue to use despite the harmful consequences. This is because their body has become chemically dependent. Even when faced with severe legal and personal penalties, an individual with a drug or alcohol addiction is often unable to discontinue using. In some cases, medical detox is the safest way to discontinue using as some withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening.
Who is at risk for addiction?
Anyone can become a victim to the disease of addiction. There are no specific factors that determine whether a person will become an addict, however, there are certain risk factors that can influence one’s risk for addiction:
• Research indicates that a person’s genetics can account for approximately 50 percent of their risk for addiction. Other mental health disorders may also influence one’s risk for developing a drug or alcohol addiction.
• A person’s environment, particularly during adolescent years, can influence one’s likeliness to develop an addiction. Lack of parental guidance, physical and sexual abuse and stress can affect the likelihood for one to become addicted to drugs or alcohol.
• Although addiction can occur at any age, those exposed to drugs or alcohol at young ages are at greater risk for developing an addiction. Areas in the brain responsible for decision-making, judgement and self-control are still developing, making children and teens particularly vulnerable.
Overcoming the disease of addiction
When attempting to overcome addiction, it’s important to remember that addiction is a chronic disease. Just like other chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease, it can be treated, but is not curable. People who are recovering from addiction may be at risk for relapse their entire lives (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2018). Therefore, choosing the right rehabilitation facility is key to achieving sobriety.
Daylight Recovery Center is a nationally recognized drug and alcohol treatment facility. Our team of medical professionals have helped countless people overcome their addictions and regain happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. All patients receive a customized treatment plan based on his/her specific needs. Patients receive a combination of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and motivational incentives to treat the entire mind, body and soul. CBT includes private and group therapy sessions, counseling, coping tools and relapse prevention. Motivational incentives include science-based, integrative services such as massage therapy, meditation, chiropractic, auriculotherapy and nutrition education.
Daylight Recovery Center
Choosing to enter a licensed drug and alcohol treatment facility is the safest and most effective way to overcome the disease of addiction. The detoxification process is the most vulnerable time for those wishing to overcome addiction. During this time of temporary discomfort, patients may be given specific medications to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Some people may be at risk for seizures during the detox process, making it extremely risky to do from home. All patients in our 30-bed state-of-the-art facility receive 24-hour medical and nursing supervision for this reason. Upon completing detox, patients transition to our residential level of care. Research shows that individuals who enter and remain in treatment can manage their addiction and improve their quality of life (Hardee, 2017). Each bed has its own flat screen television for your convenience. All meals are made from scratch by our in-house Chef. No bland hospital food here! Our recreational area offers various games, books and exercise equipment. If you’re looking for something lower-key, our patients love spending time gazing at our 450-gallon saltwater fish tank. For more information, please call 888-708-2602.
Leshner, A. (2001, June 1) What does it mean that addiction is a brain disease? Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/jun01/sp.html
Hardee, J. (2017, May 19) Science Says: Addiction Is a Chronic Disease, Not a Moral Failing. Retrieved from https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/brain-health/science-says-addiction-a-chronic-disease-not-a-moral-failing
National Institute on Drug Abuse (2018, June 1) Understanding Drug Use and Addiction. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-use-addiction