Since anyone could remember, individuals have been part of a never-ending battle between self-will and powerlessness over addiction.
Especially with the recent heroin epidemic, research has been made over the last several decades into exactly what addiction is and why people who suffer from it just can’t seem to stop.
Studies have shown that addiction is without a doubt, unequivocally, a disease of the body and mind, and not, in fact, a choice of the user.
For anyone who has suffered from addiction, or who loves someone who is an addict, it is easy to see how completely powerless a person is over their drug of choice. For family members and friends who can drink normally, it boggles the mind as to why their loved one can’t quit.
Despite the addict’s desire to stop using, they simply could not. This was by no means a lack of character or a lack of mental strength. Addiction is, in fact, a disease.
What Is Addiction?
Addiction, also known as substance use disorder, is a chronic disease that can happen to anyone no matter who they are.
A substance use disorder happens when an individual forms a physical dependence on a substance that affects their day-to-day life. This includes struggles at work or school, trouble with relationships, or financial problems.
Models of Addiction
Various organizations, individuals, and medical professionals define addiction differently, and society’s perceptions of addiction are constantly changing.
Organizations such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) define addiction as a relapsing condition resulting in a compulsive desire to seek and use drugs despite adverse consequences.
The choice model of addiction states that addiction is not something that is contagious, not autoimmune, degenerative and that it is self-acquired, meaning the person has done it to themselves.
Substance Abuse and the Brain
Addiction is considered a brain disease because the chemical structure of drugs changes the brain – they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long-lasting and can lead to harmful behaviors that are seen in people who abuse drugs.
From the outside looking in, it is understandable why it is so difficult for people who are unfamiliar with addiction to blame a lack of will to be the reason why these people act the way they do.
However, it has been proven time and time again, that despite the addict’s overwhelming desire to stop using, they suffer from a mental obsession that convinces them that they, in fact, CAN and MUST use their substance of choice.
A Silver Lining: Addiction Treatment
While a person in active addiction does not have a choice overusing their preferred substance, the evidence does show that people can recover from the hopeless state of mind and body.
The first step is to completely separate from the drug of choice. For many people, this first step is a detox process. Usually the most effective when taken under medical care, the time a person spends detoxing from their drug of choice, allows them a small window when their head can become somewhat clear.
From this “clearing out point” if a person continues with working any sort of program of recovery, whether it be 12 step-based, church-based, or charity-based, the idea is that a person who suffers from addiction can recover through acts of selflessness.
It seems like such an easy fix, but as most addicts suffer from dual diagnoses (the presence of depression, anxiety, panic, eating disorders, etc) there are often further steps that need to be taken in order to recover.
The fact is, addiction is a disease because it affects the chemical structures in the brain. While it is different from every other disease in the method of treatment, i.e, it cannot be cured with radiation or with pills, it does eventually lead to the death of the sufferer when left untreated.
Thankfully, there is a way to stop the cycle, and once this process has begun, with dedication and effort, a once hopeless addict or alcoholic can begin to live a normal life, one with far greater experience and altruism that would never have been imagined.
In Need of Detox?
It can be intimidating to know that addiction and alcoholism are always right around the corner. Sometimes getting that little push and having medical guidance can be what it takes.
Relapse and active addiction/alcoholism are only as preventable as much as we value the sobriety we hold in our hands.
Our teams of specialists are waiting by to help figure out what options are best for sending your life in a comfortable direction that you can proudly stand behind.
If you or a loved one has been struggling with getting a firm grasp on sobriety and need detoxification, please call 800-982-5530.