WHAT IS ADDICTION?
Addiction is a brain disease. It’s a chronic disease, a long-lasting condition that can be managed, but not cured. Addiction is a disease that affects both the brain and behavior. Just like asthma is a chronic lung disease, addiction is a chronic brain disease. People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol aren’t bad people. They are people with a disease that needs treatment.
BSBW Addiction: What Is It? from besmartbewell.com on Vimeo.
Here at Access Hospital, our chemical medical unit (Unit 53) is focused on the empowerment and facilitation of liberation from addictive behaviors. Addictive behaviors can be characterized by any activity, substance, object, or behavior that has become the major focus of a person's life. These behaviors become problematic when they lead to the exclusion of other activities, or when they begin to harm the individual or others physically, mentally, or socially.
At Access Dayton we focus on both the physical and mental nature of addiction.
Addiction can be characterized by craving, seeking, and continued use of drugs or alcohol that persist even in the face of devastating life consequences. Drug or alcohol addiction is a complex, and often chronic, brain disease. It is considered a brain disease because abused substances alter the brain—impacting both structure and function of multiple brain circuits that are responsible for governing self-control, judgment, decision making, as well as learning and memory. Although the initial decision to take drugs is typically voluntary, with continued use, a person’s ability to exert self-control can become seriously impaired; this impairment in self-control is the hallmark of addiction.
It is important for you to know that drug addiction is treatable with medications and combined behavioral therapies. However, relapse is common and can happen even after long periods of abstinence, underscoring the need for long-term support and care. Relapse does not signify treatment failure, but rather should prompt treatment re-engagement or modification. It is important for you to know that drug addiction is treatable with medications and combined behavioral therapies. However, relapse is common and can happen even after long periods of abstinence, underscoring the need for long-term support and care. Relapse does not signify treatment failure, but rather should prompt treatment re-engagement or modification.
People begin taking drugs or alcohol for a variety of reasons and most do not realize the consequences of their behaviors can be life-long. Often times the immediate effect of the substance “feels-good.” Most abused drugs produce intense feelings of pleasure. This initial sensation of euphoria is followed by other effects, which differ with the type of drug used. For example, with stimulants such as cocaine, the “high” is followed by feelings of power, self-confidence, and increased energy. In contrast, the euphoria caused by opiates such as heroin is followed by feelings of relaxation and satisfaction. Over time, if drug use continues, other pleasurable activities of daily life become less pleasurable, and taking the drug becomes necessary for the user just to feel “normal.”
Especially for people suffering from a mental illness such as social anxiety, depression, or stress-related disorders, drug use serves as a self-prescribed medication. The drugs initial impact can help to lessen the person’s feelings of distress. If a person’s brain chemicals are imbalanced, then often times using a drug gives them a renewed sense of power over their brain; they become in control of how they feel.
Other people begin abusing drugs in an attempt to better themselves, or to chemically enhance their performance skills, often as a result of pressure from others or put upon themselves. This initial experimentation and continued abuse of drugs such as prescription stimulants or anabolic/androgenic steroids can become highly addictive and reach dangerous levels as the individual becomes more and more obsessed with enhancement.
The physical signs of abuse or addiction can vary depending on the person and the drug being abused. Each drug has short-term and long-term physical effects. For example, someone who abuses marijuana may have a chronic cough or worsening of asthmatic symptoms. Stimulants like cocaine increase heart rate and blood pressure, whereas opioids like heroin may slow the heart rate and reduce respiration.
People of all ages suffer the harmful consequences of drug abuse and addiction. Although biological, social, developmental, and environmental factors can play large parts in a person’s addiction tendencies, no single factor determines whether a person will become addicted to drugs. Some people seem to get addicted to their drug of choice almost immediately, but for others, it takes more time. There is a lot we still don’t know about who becomes addicted and why, and after how much drug exposure. We do know that the earlier you stop usage, the more likely you will be to avoid long-term addiction and the harmful brain changes that lead to it.