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Understanding addiction as a disease

Posted on 06-26-15 in Addiction, Drug Addiction, Mental Health

Understanding addiction as a disease

Addiction is a progressive disease that manifests itself in obsessive and compulsive behaviors centered on using a substance, regardless of the negative consequences the addict undergoes. It is commonly misinterpreted as a simple lack of willpower — even a moral dilemma. Many people believe that those who struggle with addiction have done this to themselves and, deep down, have chosen their fate. Scientific research has shown us otherwise. Addiction does not discriminate, its effects span across all demographics and social classes.

Addiction, like other mental health disorders, is a complex condition. It is generated by biological, social and psychological factors. Not all who develop into drug addicts come from a drug-addicted family. In fact, those who develop drug addiction may have been dealt the opposite card in life. Some may be the only person in their family with a drug problem. In 1956, the American Medical Association (AMA) declared addiction to be an illness. This decision was soon agreed upon by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in 1960. In 1987, the AMA, APA and other organizations declared it to a disease.

The brain relies on a rewards-based system. When a person does something to survive, like eating, his or her brain’s limbic system provides rewards by releasing dopamine, the “feel good” chemical. Drug and alcohol consumption releases very large amounts of dopamine. Prolonged alcohol and drug use can lead the brain to stop producing as much dopamine as it once did. Over time, the addict’s neurological center for motivation will become rearranged to the point of constantly craving a substance to find that balance, by any means. This phenomenon of craving soon becomes top priority for the user and may inevitably become too strong for the person to withstand.

People who have an addiction did make the initial choice to try drugs and alcohol, but they did not decide how their body would react to the substance. Drug addicts and alcoholics are not responsible to having this disease, but they are responsible for their recovery. Sadly, many who are addicted do not find recovery and continue on the downward spiral that addiction causes. Some will have to lose everything before they become desperate enough to make a change. Recovering from addiction requires a consistent desire to refrain from drugs and alcohol, steering away from old habits and working towards the person they want to be. Physical sobriety is just the first part of recovery, but recovering from the underlying mental health issues that triggered addiction goes far beyond that. Walking the path of recovery requires a conscious effort to mend old behaviors, taking steps every day towards becoming the person that one wants to become.

Addiction affects over 23 million Americans every and many of them will never receive the help that they need. Many people who struggle with addiction have found relief from their condition through intensive treatment and attendance at 12-step based recovery programs. Sovereign Health Group is among the leading drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers in the country. We offer various inpatient and outpatient treatment programs for patients who struggle with drug addiction, mental health disorders and dual diagnosis. We offer extensive access to individual counseling, psychiatric appointments, group therapy and 12-step based recovery meetings. If you know someone who is struggling with drug addiction and is in need of treatment, please contact us at 888-530-4614. One of our treatment specialists will assist you in finding the right treatment option for you.

Written by Benjamin Creekmore, Sovereign Health Group writer