Drug addiction being a disease or not continues to be an ongoing discussion amidst the epidemic sweeping the nation. While some believe that drug addiction is a choice, studies and statements from leading medical institutions are proving otherwise and it’s reshaping our perspective on drug addiction as a whole.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) firmly believes and endorses the idea that drug addiction is not due to poor decision making – but rather due to an underlying mental illness; the kind of cognitive illness that affects the brains motor function to the point where drug use becomes an involuntary action. There are some striking new perspectives on the correlation of drugs and addiction and as we delve in to the details – you too may begin to understand why addiction isn’t a matter of choice as once thought.
At the time of writing this publication, overall, the general agreed upon consensus is that addiction stems from a mentally-induced disease – not from a lack in judgment. Since drug-use inhibits and affects the brain, continued use of the drug becomes an act of compulsiveness in which the user no longer retains control of their decision of partaking in the act. Drugs make a mind-altering impact on the brain and users are susceptible to long-term effects even after just a few occasional uses.
So to speak, the use of drugs rewires the brain which can lead the user to mental (or physical) dependency. At this point, self-control quickly diminishes and the process of addiction started. Cravings begin, the user fulfills the urge, and addiction quickly takes over leaving the user helpless. What’s important to understand in this process is that the drug, due to its impact on the brain, is what causes the addiction – not the user’s inability to exercise self-control.
Addiction being a Disease has an Upside
Through the traditional belief that addiction is a matter of poor decision making skills; individuals suffering from addiction, under the criticism of it being “their fault” of making the choice – would commonly inflict self-harm, become depressed, or use the drug(s) of their choice even further to escape reality. This doesn’t solve the problem at hand for the individual nor contribute to the overall cause for combatting addiction in the US.
Rather, by viewing addiction as a disease, those who have found themselves addicted are better able to cope with addiction by understanding that their addiction is a disease that can be treated. It provides them with a sense of hope for betterment and sobriety which will make the much more likely to seek treatment. Furthermore, more individuals seeking treatment will accelerate research and treatment center expansion and perhaps will aid institutions to generate additional funding for research on the matter.
The belief that addiction is a choice has been recently argued against amidst the growing crisis and one recent publication from the New York Times debated this quite well. Citing that addiction is a disease that’s better treated when openly discussed – the NYT went on to say that by educating the community on the nature of addiction, we can help shift the focal point of addiction away from the “poor decision making” excuse and rather focus on what’s most important – the disease.
Treatment for a bad choice doesn’t exist – but they do for diseases. With that said, the most logical approach seems to be for us to view addiction as a treatable condition rather than one that isn’t.
Inflicting personalized blame on the masses of those suffering from addiction is not only unfair judgment but contributes to addicts feeling weak, hopeless, and a part of a minority. Let’s not push those who are already down, rather – helping to educate the community and the Nation as a whole on addiction being caused from an underlying sickness will help the epidemic rather than worsening it.
Neurological Changes from Drug Use- How this Affects and Promotes Addiction
One recent publication that did a great job at explaining how drug addiction is a disease was an insightful write-up provided by the American Journal of Psychiatry which discusses how addiction is a matter of mental changes caused from drug use and not the judgment of use itself. This study determined that the abuse of both drugs and alcohol can have detrimental effects to cognitive health and can reshape the way one thinks, feels, acts, and behave.
These changes to the brains functions can lead the individual to developing one of the multiple roots of addiction which can include:
- Increased Tolerance – This is when the individual feels less of the drug and needs to increase intake to feel the same effect(s).
- Dependence – Certain drugs cause users to become physically and mentally dependent causing users to be unable to function without it.
- Dysphoria – Negative thoughts from the drugs or from criticism can lead to continued drug use or even a relapse.
As provided, you can see that there are numerous affects that drug use has on the brain. It fosters the relationship of dependency between it and the brain and overwhelms its victims with an addiction that’s very hard to deter.
It’s certainly a disease and an epidemic at large that will need continued effort to overcome but through helping the community and by educating addiction-inflicted individuals about the addiction of nature – we’ll be one stop closer to combating and succeeding this ever-growing epidemic.
Now that we understand more about addiction compared to previous times – such perspectives are easier to form and support as there are more credible results being contributed to the idea. As more research is conducted and results surface – we’ll continue to develop and excel our approach to curing this disease of addiction that is affecting the lives of so many people.
This process starts simply by properly diagnosing addiction as a disease so that we can finally begin to excel research and formulate effective addiction treatment routes.