Both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) classify addiction as a disease. Alcoholism has been considered a disease since the AMA named it as such in 1956. All addictions were later included in this category in 1987. ASAM classified addiction as a chronic brain disorder in 2011. Many doctors and scientists have given their input, as has the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDU), with the overwhelming agreement that puts addiction in the disease category.
Addiction is caused by a wide-ranging number of factors, including biological, psychological, behavioral, and environmental. It alters brain functioning and creates changes in the body, just like other diseases such as cancer and diabetes. There are also the many side effects of addiction that may exacerbate or amplify other pre-existing conditions. It can also create new ones that would have never arisen without the continued abuse of substances that inhibit brain function and contribute to the deterioration of the body.
Addiction as a Disease
Another term for alcohol or drug addiction is substance use disorder, which is a chronic brain disease in simplified terms. Addiction rewires the brain, creating a wide variety of problems. Alcohol and drugs hinder the sending, receiving, and processing of information by nerve cells in the brain. Particularly affected by the use of drugs is the neurotransmitter dopamine. It is known as a chemical messenger, as the nervous system utilizes it to send messages between nerve cells.
Dopamine plays a large part in how we experience pleasure. When you use drugs, dopamine is released, causing the brain to overreact and put the brakes on dopamine production. This makes it harder to achieve the same high with the regular dose of whatever substance you use. This begins the cycle of needing more drugs to get high. The longer you use drugs, the less dopamine is produced, and the never-ending cycle continues until you find the will to seek help for your addiction.
Chronic Disease Factors
- Genetics – People who come from a family where addiction is prevalent are 60% more likely than others to succumb to addiction.
- Environment – The home one grows up in has a great influence on future possibilities of addiction. If alcohol or drug use occurs in the home, this increases the chances that you will be using and most likely at a younger age than your peers who do not grow up in a similar environment.
- Development – Alcohol and drug use before the age of 25, when the brain is still in its development stage, increases the chances of addiction and can have severe and lasting detrimental effects.
6 Principles in Treating Addiction Disease
- Focus on all of the patient’s needs, not just the addiction
- Integration of counseling and other behavioral therapies
- Use of medication in concert with these therapies
- Addressing mental health concerns
- Continuous monitoring of drug treatment
- To be effective, drug treatment does not always have to be voluntary
Reach Out to Sunstone Recovery Today
Like all diseases, addiction must be treated by professionals to help you regain your health and learn effective techniques to control the disease and be able to live with it. This is not something most people will be able to do without some outside assistance. A treatment facility is the best option whether you choose the inpatient or outpatient option. Sunstone Recovery in Bend, Oregon, uses telehealth, a virtual method of interacting with our clients. There are currently no inpatient services available. We use a collaborative treatment approach that focuses on addressing our clients’ mental health issues. Currently, all of our services are being offered online via telemedicine apps due to covid-19 restrictions. On the plus side, this makes us available to residents throughout the state. We can be reached online or at 855.833.9199 for you to take the first step on your journey to recovery.