For a long time, people viewed addiction to drugs and alcohol as a moral failing. Often, they assumed that a person who had an addiction to these substances simply lacked the willpower to not indulge. Many people still hold these views, even as a new model for understanding the pull of drugs and alcohol exists. This model helps answer the question, is addiction a disease, instead of past approaches to dealing with substance abuse.
The sobering reality is that addiction is a disease, which treatment options can help a person overcome.
Why is Addiction a Disease?
The American Society of Addiction Medicine and the American Medical Association define addiction as a disease.
Just like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, addiction occurs from a combination of biological, environmental and behavioral factors. Genetic risk factors are also a consideration and account for the likelihood that a person develops an addiction.
Generally, addiction is the result of changes to how the body and brain function. These changes may preexist or occur as a result of risky behavior with drugs or alcohol. When people don’t seek treatment, addiction can lead to mental and physical health disorders. Over time, addiction becomes more severe, disabling and even life-threatening for some individuals.
Is Addiction a Disease Overcome by Willpower?
Answering the question is addiction a disease or a matter of willpower requires understanding why a person makes a conscious choice to begin using. Still, choice or willpower ceases to matter once addiction changes a person’s brain. This appears in a person’s inability to avoid their substance of choice even when facing negative consequences.
There’s an element of choice that most rehab programs attempt to help a person regain. Nevertheless, making the right choice without professional guidance becomes harder when a person is struggling with an addiction.
Most people don’t have addictions because they want to. Rather, they develop addictions because they feel that they need the substance to cope with life. In most cases, the body’s dependence on drugs or alcohol supports this need.
How Drug Addiction Alters the Brain
Drugs and alcohol disrupt the brain’s reward system. Long-term use influences the brain’s ability to function, which directly impacts learning, remembering, controlling behavior and decision-making abilities.
There’s an intimate relationship between disrupted brain circuits from substance abuse and what would normally direct self-control. Addiction erodes the brain’s ability to function properly in everyday life scenarios.
Is Addiction a Disease That’s Curable?
With the erosion of self-control from a person’s continued drug or alcohol abuse, it becomes difficult for a person to quit on his or her own. Support from loved ones can help the person seek detox and rehabilitation.
Having an effective, evidence based treatment program like the ones available at Gateway Foundation Smyrna increases their odds of reaching sobriety. We know addiction is a disease and provide programs and services that influence how we address the issue.
Some of our addiction treatment programs include:
Finally, addiction is a very treatable disease with the right help. Contact our rehab admissions line at [Direct] to learn more and begin treatment.