There are many people who don’t understand the reasons why people become addicted to drugs and alcohol. They may think that addiction is the result of a moral failing or a defect in character. In reality, drug and alcohol addiction are seen as a complex and progressive disease. While the disease of addiction is devastating to both the addict and the ones they love, increased research has led to treatments that can help addict return to normal lives.
If you are new to the thought of addiction as a disease, this article will help you better understand this concept. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and need help, call B-Hope toll-free today.
Reasons Why Addiction is a Disease
Addiction Changes Brain Functioning and Structure
Perhaps the biggest reason why addiction is a disease is the fact that chronic substance abuse changes brain functioning and structure. Drugs have immediate impacts on both neurotransmitter systems and at the cellular level. With chronic use, drugs and alcohol alter the functions of neurons. With these changes in the neurons, a person’s behavior changes over time.
The neurotransmitter that most associated with the development of substance abuse is dopamine. Drugs and alcohol release incredible levels of dopamine in the brain, which creates a reinforcing pattern. In the attempt to adapt to the surges in dopamine, the brain will produce less of this neurotransmitter as well as reduce the number of receptor cells. As a result, people who use substances to feel pleasure.
Addiction Has Genetic Factors
Another important component in the addiction as disease paradigm is the role of genetics and family history. Although everyone has the potential to develop an addiction during their lives, there are some people who are more predisposed to develop an addiction. According to information provided by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), about half the risk of developing an addiction is due to genetic factors. Additionally, the NCADD states that studies of adopted children and twins raised apart have shown the risk of developing a substance abuse problem tends to run in families.
In addition to these studies, researchers also study large families to further understanding of the addiction as the disease model. Genetic researchers compare the DNA sequences of those family members who are affected by an addiction to drugs and alcohol with those who are not addicts. From these studies, researchers look for DNA strands that are shared among addicted individuals and less common in those not affected by substance abuse.
Addiction Also Has Environmental Factors
In the addiction as the disease model, an individual’s environment is closely linked to their genetic predisposition to drug and alcohol abuse. Much like any other disease, the disease of addiction can develop from one’s surroundings. According to information on the Learn Genetics website, there are several domains which can contribute to the development of addiction as a disease:
- The Community Domain-Within an individual’s community, there are several factors that can play a significant part in their likelihood of abusing drugs and alcohol. If a person’s community has favorable attitudes toward drug use, firearms and crime, the risk of developing an addiction to substances.
- The Family Domain-Within one’s personal connections, family dysfunction, and problems at home are significant in the increased risk of developing an addiction. It is also important to note that parents who have favorable attitudes towards drug use or use drugs themselves often have children who use drugs.
- The Peer Domain-When looking at these factors in the disease model of addiction, the single biggest contributing factor to drug abuse risk are friends who abuse drugs and alcohol. Like one’s family environment, friends who have favorable attitudes towards drug use or use drugs can also increase the risk of addiction.
- The School Domain-The increase risk of drug abuse can also be tied to an individual’s relationship to their educational environment. A student’s performance, participation, and commitment to their learning and school, in general, can be a major risk factor in developing a substance abuse problem.
People Addicted to Substances Are Vulnerable to Other Addictions
For those with drug and alcohol addiction, the risk of developing other addictions increase significantly. As stated earlier, chronic drug use rewires the brain. It is common for people who are addicted one drug to become addicted to another drug or activity. This is often referred to cross-addiction in the disease model of addiction. This can be seen particularly in those families with a strong history of addiction.
Addiction is Treatable
As with other diseases, addiction as a disease can be effectively treated through medications and treatment programs. There is an increasing number of treatment facilities that are adopting medically assisted treatment (MAT) programs. For those struggling with opioid, opiate or alcohol abuse, there are effective medications that can help them overcome their addictions for good.
In addition to medically assisted treatment, addiction as a disease can also be treated with intensive drug treatment. Drug treatment facilities nationwide offer a wide range of programs and services that can be created to meet everyone’s unique needs. Whether it is intensive inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, day treatment or sober living, treatment facilities have programs that will benefit everyone who is suffering from addiction.
Take Control of Your Life Today!
The disease of addiction is both progressive and complex. When left unchecked, drug addiction can not only negatively impact an addict’s life, it also impacts the lives of their loved ones. If you or someone you love is fighting a losing battle with drugs and alcohol, you must act today. With so many treatment options, you may feel overwhelmed and not know where to turn.
When you are considering treatment, B-Hope should be your first and only call you make. Our experienced and compassionate staff will work with you every step of the way to ensure you get the treatment and support you need to overcome your drug addiction. No matter how severe your addiction, B-Hope will provide the tools you need to experience happiness, health, and long-term recovery. Call today!