By the time a person begins to consider entering treatment for drug addiction, life has generally taken a turn for the worse. Many drug addicts and alcoholics lose jobs, relationships and countless sums of money. The physical symptoms, such as increased drug tolerance and changes in brain chemistry, demonstrate that addiction is a disease. But is addiction a curable disease?
Why Behavioral Health Issues Are Misunderstood
On top of social and financial consequences, those with substance addictions may face legal consequences as well. In a few cases, the addict may even suffer from deteriorating health as a result of internal damage or infectious diseases. Due to the stigmatized nature of the consequences, however, many believe addiction to be a moral failing. We do not often think of a disease as the cause of broken trust and unfulfilled career ambitions. Nonetheless, treating drug addiction as a disease is highly important. Perhaps it’s the only way to break through the external symptoms of the problem and effectively treat the underlying causes.
Why Addiction Is a Disease
Alcoholism and drug addiction are not spread by infectious agents, nor are they biologically degenerative in the same sense as diseases such as Alzheimer’s. For these reasons, many reject the disease model of addiction. The undeniable truth, however, is that addiction results from a combination of genetic, biological and environmental factors that combine to create a progressive condition.
Genetic Predisposition of Addiction
Genetics play a large role in the development of addiction. According to genetic studies, addiction is heritable at rates that range from moderate to high, depending upon the subject. There are identifiable genetic markers that can account for a predisposition toward addictive behavior, particularly from young to middle adulthood. While the development of the disease still depends upon exposure to and volitional use of addictive substances, genetics greatly increase the risk of continued use after the initial exposure has occurred.
Environmental Factors of Drug Dependency
Not all drug addiction and alcoholism originates from genetic predisposition. Being exposed to addictive substances, such as socializing with friends or coworkers who use drugs and alcohol can play a role by enticing a person to use. In addition, the increase of stress (physical, emotional and mental) can raise one’s likelihood for seeking out substances that meant to help minimize pain or diminish anxiety or depression. Although well-intended, these outlets can spur ongoing use, often with fatal consequences.
The Cycle of Addictive Behaviors
As use continues, the progressive aspects of the disease come into play. The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that continued substance abuse erodes the user’s self-control. A chronic condition, addiction is a disease characterized by compulsive behaviors that often appear baffling to outsiders who do not understand the neurological implications of repeated drug use.
During the addictive process, a user’s sense of judgment becomes greatly diminished and the threat of serious consequences that would normally give a person reason to pause, no longer plays a strong role in choosing risky decisions.
Furthermore, as dopamine floods the brain’s reward center, the receptors become damaged. The user requires more of their chosen substance in order to achieve the same effects, leading to an increased frequency of use. Eventually, locked in a cycle of repetitive drug-seeking behaviors, a user seldom escapes the need and desire for continued use.
The Issue Is Choice
Although there are physical and emotional aspects of substance addiction, much like other diseases such as diabetes or mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, the controversy about identifying it as a disease may rest in the element of choice.
Some would argue that cancer diagnosis doesn’t happen with the choices one makes in their behavior. Lupus or Hashimoto’s Disease can’t either; however, they can be managed. By addressing addictive behaviors and dependency sooner than later, the effects of drug use disorder and alcohol use disorder can be treated and managed, through the lifelong process known as recovery.
A cure? Not exactly as addiction is a recurring disease.
Treating the Causes and Symptoms of Addiction
Due to the unique circumstances of every person’s situation, not all people require the same continuum of care. That’s why it’s essential to find the right course of treatment that can meet the philosophical, physical, emotional and spiritual needs of each individual and their families.
At Foundations Wellness Center, we focus strongly on care customization. Accounting for the environmental factors that played a role in each person’s addiction, we help clients develop relapse prevention tools that will personally benefit them the most. Because there’s no point in simply covering up the symptoms of the disease—we help you heal from the inside out.
Since many addicts and alcoholics suffer from co-occurring disorders, known as dual diagnosis, our licensed clinical staff can assess and evaluate the existence of a wide variety of mental health issues that may play a role in the individual’s substance use.
Customized Care Requires More Options
Through multiple levels of treatment, we provide many program options that allow clients to pursue a form of recovery that will work best for them.
Faith-based treatment, trauma resolution, family wellness, employee assistance—these are all examples of specific programs that may benefit some individuals more than others. Our primary goal is to ensure long-term recovery; therefore, we feel that it benefits our clients to be placed on a track that will fulfill their individual needs.
Addiction is a disease but, fortunately, it is treatable. If you are interested in a program that will seek to uncover and treat the underlying causes of substance abuse in you or a loved one, we can help.