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Is Addiction a Disease?

Is addiction a disease? Learn more about drug addiction, the disease model for addiction, how addiction starts, and how to take control of your life.

Is Addiction a Disease

Article Contents

What is Drug Addiction?

Drug addiction is a strong desire to obtain and use drugs despite the likelihood of adverse and severe effects in its most basic form.

Addiction: A Drug Use Disorder

Addiction, often known as drug use disorder, is a brain and body condition characterized by obsessive use of one or more substances despite substantial health and social repercussions. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., validated what researchers had suspected for years in a November 2016 paper that addiction is a long-term condition that causes severe brain alterations.1  

Why Does Addiction Develop?

Addiction does not develop due to moral failure, a lack of resolve, or a refusal to stop. This discovery results from decades of research on the effects of drug abuse on the brain. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., validated what researchers had suspected for years in a November 2016 paper that addiction is a long-term condition that causes severe brain alterations.

Individuals deliberately drink or use drugs for the first time, assuming they can regulate their use. To reach the same degree of happiness and enjoyment as when they initially started, more alcohol or drugs are required over time. Individuals can no longer choose not to use drugs or alcohol deliberately, even if it means losing all they ever cherished. 

What Is A Disease?

A disease is a specific abnormal condition that impacts the health of all or parts of an organism without being caused by an external injury.2

According to the World Health Organization, health is “a condition of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, not only the absence of sickness or infirmity.” Many professionals in the medical field concluded addiction is a disease since it tampers with the body’s normal function.3  

The Disease Model of Addiction

Most medical groups, including the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), classify addiction as a disease. Addiction is caused by behavioral, psychological, environmental, and biological variables, just as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. About half of the probability of developing an addiction is determined by genetic risk factors.4

Addiction gets more severe, debilitating, and life-threatening if not addressed. Changes in the brain and body characterize addiction due to long-term use of nicotine, alcohol, and other drugs. Other overall health conditions that require medical treatment are frequently the result of untreated addiction. 

Reasons Why Addiction is a Disease

Different health issues and body malfunctions characterize addiction. Here are some reasons why addiction is considered a disease:

Addiction Changes Brain Functioning and Structure

Over time, the continual release of these substances creates changes in the brain’s reward, motivation, and memory systems. When fundamental needs such as food, thirst, and sex are met, people experience pleasure.

The release of chemicals in the brain, in most situations, causes these emotions of happiness, which reinforce these life-sustaining processes by encouraging the individual to repeat the activities that give those pleasant feelings. When a person becomes used to taking drug substances, the chemicals in the drug cause a change in the brain’s function, causing the individual to become vulnerable.

Addiction Has Genetic Factors

Genetics account for around 75% of a person’s desire to start substance use. Genes are also responsible for 60% of the likelihood of getting addicted and 54% of the capacity to stop.5

Addiction Has Environmental Factors

According to research, environmental variables are linked to an increased risk of addiction in the United States. Addiction is more likely to develop in someone who has a family history of substance misuse, mental health difficulties, or crime. Seeing family members use narcotics as children might normalize a young person’s conduct, especially if they are vulnerable in other ways.

Addiction Has Behavioral Factors

Addiction is defined as the continued use of drugs or alcohol despite adverse effects. This is typically caused by growing tolerance, which leads to more frequent drug use, forcing the person to disregard other duties in their life. Addiction alters the brain significantly, affecting mood, temperament, and thought patterns.  

Addiction Is Treatable

Like many other diseases, addiction is a treatable condition one can be cured of. There are different substance use treatments for every individual irrespective of their age.

How Addiction Starts

Exercise, eating, and socializing with loved ones are healthy actions that a healthy brain rewards. It accomplishes this by activating brain regions that make one feel good, motivating the body to repeat those activities.

When the body system is in danger, on the other hand, a healthy brain encourages your body to react rapidly with dread or alarm to get you out of harm’s way. When exposed to harmful substances which trigger an individual’s satisfaction, one will continue to consume the drug substances to get the same happiness and satisfaction felt at the first use.  

How Addiction Functions

People suffering from addiction lose control of their activities. They desire and pursue drugs, alcohol, and other substances at any cost, even destroying friendships, harming family, or losing employment.

An Addicted Brain Impacts the Behavior

Addiction has several effects on the brain. When a chemical enters the brain, it can lead people to lose control of their impulses or develop a strong desire for a toxic drug. Stimulants, Alcohol, Nicotine, Opioids, and Sedatives all include chemical substances that reach the brain and circulation when used.

The brain seeks the substance’s reward when someone develops an addiction. This is due to the brain’s reward system being overstimulated. Many users continue to take the chemical as a result, resulting in various euphoric experiences and unusual behavioral patterns.  

Is Addiction a Disease

Where the Disease Model of Addiction Fall Short

One widespread misconception is that addiction is a decision or a moral issue that can be overcome by just stopping. But that couldn’t be further from the truth, according to Dr. George Koob, head of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at the National Institutes of Health. “Addiction affects the brain, so it takes a lot of effort to return it to its original state. The more drugs or alcohol one has taken, the more the brain gets disrupted.”6

Getting Help for Drug Addiction

Addiction can cause serious health issues if not treated on time. It can result in serious cognitive problems, cardiovascular issues, and behavioral issues. Getting help for drug addiction is very important to protect individuals against future complications and withdrawal symptoms. Addiction cannot be dealt with alone; a professional’s help is needed.

Receive Help with Iris Healing®

At Iris Healing®, can help patients dealing with addiction by getting the right treatment as soon as possible without serious complications.

Contact us for various addiction treatments and begin your wellness journey today.

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