It’s common for people to consider addiction a choice or a reflection of the addict’s weak will. But this perception ignores the reality of how addiction functions, especially in the brain. If you’re struggling with addiction or are close to someone with this problem, you may notice that wanting to get clean is not enough for successful sobriety. Therefore, “Is addiction a disease?” The American Medical Association Addiction classifies addiction as a disease, as do most medical authorities. Addiction behaves like any other disease and is similar to diabetes or cancer. Like these disorders, addiction has a pattern of biological predisposition and lifestyle factors. In the case of people with addiction, the affected organ is the brain.
How Addiction Affects the Brain
Humans look to fulfill their basic needs, such as food, water, or safety. We learn as young children that getting our needs met will make us feel good because of an underlying chemical process. The brain is flooding with dopamine, a powerful neurotransmitter that encourages us to repeat this action again and again. When our brain guides us to attain these needs, it is performing a normal and healthy function. The problem happens when an addicted brain orients itself to pursue an addictive substance so much that it becomes a craving. Addiction programs the brain to get the next dopamine hit every time you use the substance.
Like any disease, addiction worsens over time, and this motivation can become overwhelming and destructive. As the brain’s patterns become more stuck on releasing dopamine to reward the user for using, the condition becomes chronic and even life-threatening. The disease model of addiction is successful because it uses a comprehensive approach to achieve long-term sobriety.
Root Causes of Addiction
Like many other diseases, family history plays a significant role in how likely someone is to suffer from addiction. According to the NIDA, the chance of becoming an addict will correlate with genetic makeup by up to 60 percent. Just like a history of breast cancer is a risk factor for getting that disease, addiction tends to run in families. Addiction can be hereditary because there’s a biological component to having an addictive personality. The second major factor going on with addiction is the person’s environment, especially as children or teenagers. Having a chaotic home life, experiencing trauma, and exposure to substance abuse are all patterns that make someone more likely to become an addict. This disease will often result from the interaction between having the genetic predisposition and also having an environment with risk factors.
Is Drug Addiction a Disease? And the Effective Treatment for Addiction
Is drug addiction a disease? Yes. And like any disease, therapy can treat addiction and successfully manage it. Rediscovering sober life can be rewarding, but it’s not common for addicts to quit cold turkey. The disease model of addiction considers a relapse to be an expected but treatable symptom of this chronic disorder. The most crucial factor in being successful is for the addict to have the right support.
To get sober, you will need a comprehensive approach that tackles the whole disease. Drug counseling and therapy will treat the psychological effects of addiction, ease withdrawal symptoms, and address any co-occurring conditions such as mental illness. The program will also include opportunities to connect with peers that are also trying to stay sober. Sharing your thoughts and experiences in group counseling can foster incredible breakthroughs. Participants discuss life skills, relationship problems, triggers for addiction, and relapse prevention. Treating this disease is all about learning vital new coping skills that can replace the addictive substance. Over time, it’s possible to overcome harmful brain patterns and begin to build a new life within sobriety.
At Sunstone Recovery, we have seen so many lives changed for the better by reaching long-term sobriety. If you struggle with addiction, don’t give up hope. A quality drug rehab can provide you with the tools you need to overcome addiction. Contact us at 855.833.9199 and learn more about our comprehensive substance abuse program.