Over the years, many people debate about drug addiction being a disease. People think that those who suffer drug addiction usually lack the strong motivation to quit or users lack moral principles.
Understanding drug addiction takes more than someone else’s’ opinion.
The medical community considered drug addiction as a complex disease. Kicking the habit takes more than willpower. Over time these drugs alter the brain which makes it difficult for users to quit, even if they want to. Medical treatments for addiction are widely available. Many users recover from addiction to live a healthy and happy life.
What happens when someone falls into the trap of addiction? To understand addiction, it is important to know what addiction is all about.
The American Medical Association defines drug addiction as a disease. Environmental, biological, and behavioral factors can cause drug addiction. A condition similar to diseases like cancer, heart disease, and hypertension. Also, genetic contributes a lot in addiction.
Addiction alters the physical characteristic of the body and the brain. It creates changes in the normal function of the brain. Drug addictions trigger these changes or users already have pre-existing medical conditions.
The end result of drug addiction can cause further damage to the physical and mental health. Such conditions need serious and expensive medical care. Long term addiction will develop into a severe disorder. Users may end up with life-threatening health conditions.
Most drugs interrupt the normal function of the brain’s reward system. This reward system controls the pleasure activity in the brain, the same region where it motivates a person.
These addictive substances can cause the brain to produce excessive dopamine levels.
Also, these drugs flood the central nervous system with dopamine, a chemical messenger. Overstimulation of the reward system can cause a rush of intense ‘high’. This feeling triggers the person for repetitive behavior.
When users continue to use illicit drugs, the brain adapt to the dopamine excess. Over time the build tolerance for the drug. This means that the brain will start reducing the natural dopamine production. It can also cut off the cell’s ability in the reward system to respond to pleasure. Users may need to take more of the drug or take higher doses to get the same effect.
Furthermore, because of the reduction in the natural dopamine production, users may feel less motivated. They have decreased pleasure from activities or hobbies they once enjoyed in the past. Long term heavy drug abuse can cause other changes in the brain chemical systems. These functions may include:
Even if the users stop consuming the drugs, the changes in the brain can still linger for a period of time. These changes can also make the users vulnerable to the physical and environmental factors that caused them to turn into drugs. Once users restart the addiction, it is medically known as a relapse.
People should not blame users for suffering from addiction. Even though all people make choices whether to use substances, they do not choose how their body will respond to it. Each individual has unique physical characteristics and produces different reactions to drugs and alcohol. Some users may control their use while other cannot.
Each person has the capability to stop using addictive substances. Users may find it more difficult to quit than those who do not have the disorder. Nevertheless, users cannot walk away without accountability.
The only action users carry is the responsibility to seek treatment. They are responsible for maintaining a sober life. Most often they need help and support from loved ones and close friends. Having a strong support system increases the chance for effective recovery from addiction.
Drug addiction usually starts with a decision and a conscious choice of the user. But, as time goes by, addiction changes the normal function of the brain and will power becomes damaged.
The most significant symptoms of addiction are the uncontrollable behavior to consume the addictive substance.
A disease is health conditions that can are manageable. Approximately 25 to 50% of people with substance abuse disorder also have a co-existing severe or chronic disorder. For users, addiction is a progressive disease which needs continuous treatments. Aftercare and strong support group are also important for users to regain their vitality.
Fortunately, even is most severe cases of addiction, the disorder can still be treated and remains as reversible.
Many people do not consider drug addiction as a disease based on the initial stages factor which is the user’s choice to use addictive substances. It may start a decision but over time, these substances alter the brain and body and users lose all control of their actions.
Also, choices do not determine the end result such as the kind of disease it can trigger. Some forms of cancer and heart disease all result from poor diet and lack of exercise. A disease is something that happens as a result of those initial choices.
Meanwhile, some people argue about drug addiction should not be considered as a disease because some people do get better without seeking medical help. Users with mild substance disorder can effectively recovery even without undergoing treatment.
On the other hand, people with severe addiction commonly need treatment and sustained aftercare for life. This is to ensure abstinence and to take control of their lives without relapses.
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Dr. Vikram Tarugu, M.D, is the CEO of Detox of South Florida, Inc and medical professional focused on addiction. A veteran in the medical field with over 25 years of professional experience. He is a consultant for many South Florida Rehab centers. Patients travel from allover the US to seek his help with addiction and Hepatitis C treatment.
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