In recent years the medical field has stood by the concept that substance addiction, and addiction, is, in fact, a disease of the brain, not a matter of willpower. Years ago there was a general stigma that addicts were simply not strong enough to say no to substance-but numerous studies and research have led scientists and medical professionals to believe addiction is a pre-existing condition of the brain- a disease- much like cancer or tuberculosis.
In an instant- the way the world views addiction changed. People are no longer looked down upon for being “less than” or “scummy’, society began to understand the condition as people who are sick and need help.
Public perceptions improved and although the disease wasn’t accepted as being okay- efforts for treatment increased and the concept gained community support.
The Characteristics of Disease
People, especially those who have never suffered addiction or known someone who has, distance the condition from other uncontrollable medical conditions. But, when we look at the traits that define what makes a disease- Addiction falls under the term to a T. In the medical field, characteristics of a disease include:
- Genetic risk factors determining likelihood of developing the condition
- A chronic condition that affects the normal function of the body
- Requires Treatment
- Chronic, often re-occurring (relapsing)
The disease of addiction is a chronic and all-too-often relapsing condition of the brain- leading to compulsive drug use and behavior as well as physical changes to the structure and function of the brain.
Although it can occur on its own, a history of substance abuse raises one’s chances of struggling with addiction incredibly. A casual drink for some may be the trigger for those who are wired with addiction. The body works in such a way that it thinks it needs this substance to survive- and the addict goes into a version of “survival mode” where the will do anything to get their fix.
Risk Factors For the Disease of Addiction
Just like carcinogens and family history can increase the risk of cancer- Addiction has its own set of risk factors. A wide variety of social, environmental, and physiological characteristics all contribute to the likelihood of developing an addiction. Some of these risk factors include:
- Family History of Addiction: anybody who has a close relative with an addiction problem have a higher chance of being genetically inclined to become addicted as well.
- Mental health Disorder: People with depression, ADHD, Anxiety, Bipolar disorder, and more are more likely to become addicted to drugs if the drug calms their disorder or alters their state of mind in a favorable way.
- Family Dynamic: Lack of close relationship with family or household can lead to consumption and addiction of substances if the brain experiences endorphins it was previously not exposed too.
- Metabolism- Yup, you read that right. As no two bodies are exactly the same, no two metabolisms are the exactly the same. Our bodies actually process drugs differently, and at different rates. Those who need more amounts of a substance to feel the effects could develop the disease of addiction as a result of over-consumption. Similarly – we could metabolize the drug in a way that heightens it’s euphoric effects-also leading to the disease of addiction.
Why Some People Disagree
The classification of addiction as a disease is a newly accepted concept. People argue that addiction is a choice- and should not be considered a disease because of its preventative. And yet, lung cancer is considered a disease even if the individual smoked cigarettes. Any disease has preventative measures- but that doesn’t mean if you engage in risk factors it automatically declassifies your illness to a “choice”.
Another Argument is that it is a behavioral disorder- such as ADD or OCD. That it’s not a disease of the brain but a compulsive behavior- like excess shopping, exercise, or cleaning. The issue with this theory is that compulsive behaviors are a psychological obsession- where addiction is a physical need. You can’t die from quitting shopping- you can die from alcohol withdrawal.
It can be difficult for people to accept that addiction is a disease- they say things like “well if you never picked up that drink or drug”, but millions of people drink and try drugs every day and don’t get addicted. That’s what differentiates those who suffer from the disease and those who don’t.
Recovery Is Possible
If you or a loved one is struggling with the disease of addiction, know that treatment and full recovery is possible. Our medically trained staff and professionals combine human compassion with clinical accuracy to provide the highest quality treatment for you and your loved ones. Don’t let addiction steal any more of your life – call us today to start your journey to sobriety.