A Disease of Mind, Body and Spirit
Addiction is a primary disease as it is not the result of some other problem. For example, addiction is not caused by a bad marriage or other difficulty in life. Addiction is chronic, meaning there is no cure, but we know it can be successfully managed. We also know addiction is progressive – if not addressed it will get worse and is potentially fatal.
A brain disease research has shown that addiction is not a matter of individual strength, moral character or willpower. Instead, addiction is a matter of how the brain becomes wired. Long-term use of alcohol and other drugs actually change the brain. Substance use increases the release of a powerful chemical called dopamine. Over time, if dopamine is routinely in abundance, the brain attempts to balance things out by producing less. At that point, the brain relies on substances to trigger the release of dopamine, which is when individuals start to use alcohol and other drugs just to feel normal.
Dependency takes place in an area of the brain known as the “reward center”. The reward center is the same place that regulates and reinforces natural rewards vital to existence, such as food and sex, which is why the addicted brain pursues alcohol and other drugs as if these substances are needed for mere survival. This process is why people with addiction place that pursuit irrationally above almost any other priority. A variety of social, psychological, genetic and other factors make some people more vulnerable than others to developing addiction. No one chooses to develop the disease. Individuals who develop addiction are no longer able to use alcohol and drugs like other people do. The brain chemistry of an addict has changed in a way that can be brought back into balance through rehab, but that balance will always remain vulnerable to resumed use.
Counseling is Important in Addiction Treatment
Addiction is more than a physical dependence on drugs. Even after detox, when physical dependence has resolved, addicts are at high risk for relapse. Psychological and social factors are often powerful stimuli for prescription drug abuse relapse.
Several counseling therapies are available for prescription drug abuse with no one established method known to be better than another. Likewise, no one approach is appropriate for everyone.