People with drug or alcohol addiction problems are often characterized as hopeless social misfits living a dysfunctional life. Today’s society views drug addicts as nothing more than bad dangerous people who do not deserve help or sympathy because they are getting what they deserve for allowing themselves to become addicted. These inhumane and ignorant perceptions are derived from the lack of knowledge and a belief that addiction is just but another form of irresponsible behavior. While it is true that some addicts engage in criminal or anti-social behavior due to desperation, most of them are hardly in control of their mental faculties due to the damage caused by the drugs on their brains. What most people fail to understand is that the addict is actually someone’s child, a sibling, and a nice person suffering from a terrible disease.
Leading medical associations including the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the American Medical Association define drug and alcohol abuse as a disease. Even the Affordable Care Act has included substance abuse and addiction as one of the essential pillars of good health which means addiction is classified as a disease and is part of their insurance plans. From a medical point of view, addiction is a complex disease that adversely affects the brain and the entire body. It is a disease because it adversely affects brain regions that are responsible for motivation, reward, memory, and more importantly judgment. Addiction damages not just body systems but has adverse effects on families, interpersonal relationships, schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods. Addiction corrupts the substance user to a point where the craving to use more and more of the substance supersedes every other basic human need. Just like other lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cancer, addiction is a disease resulting from a combination of factors including behavioral traits as well as environmental and biological factors. There are even genetic risk factors which in fact account for 50% of the likelihood that you can become addicted. If left untreated addiction results in more severe mental and physical disorders that are disabling and life threatening. Our society, unfortunately, fails to understand how and why a person becomes addicted. Many people have the misconception that an addict simply lacks moral principles and willpower to abstain from taking drugs or alcohol anytime they wish to. In reality, addiction is a complex disease and stopping substance abuse takes more than will power and good intentions. Many drug users in Miami wish to quit but the damage caused by the drugs in their brains make it extremely difficult to quit.
Many addicts are people who lived honest lives prior to using drugs. They are people who never dreamed of robbing or stealing from people at any time in their lives. They only engage in anti-social activities after the drugs have taken control of their mental faculties. The good news is that this disease can be corrected if the addict is taken to a rehabilitation center. Addiction cannot be curbed through punishment and abandonment of the victim but by helping the addict find professional treatment and care.
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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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