Is Addiction a Disease?

Addiction is frequently referred to as substance use disorder. It is a complicated disease that involves the body, the brain, and the actions of the user, causing that person to want to use substances despite the social and health consequences of their actions. When it comes to addiction, individuals have circuits disrupted in the brain that are responsible for judgment, memory, and learning. Some believe that people can overcome addiction with willpower alone. In actuality, addiction is a disease, and those suffering experience better outcomes when they treat addiction as a disease and seek treatment from a professional. What do you need to know, and how can you break free from the bonds of substance use disorder?

Addiction As a Disease Model

The vast majority of medical organizations define addiction as a disease. Addiction, like heart disease and cancer, is caused by numerous factors. Some of the factors that play a role in the development of addiction include biological, environmental, and psychological factors. There are also genetic factors that play a role in the generation of substance use disorder. Individuals who have a family history that includes relatives with substance use issues are more likely to develop substance use disorder themselves.

Furthermore, untreated addiction can lead to serious physical and mental health issues. If substance use disorder goes untreated, it can even become life-threatening. That is why it is important to take a closer look at how addiction changes the brain and what must be done to overcome this condition.

Substance Use Disorder Changes the Brain

The brain has developed a reward mechanism that makes people feel good when their basic needs, such as hunger, are satisfied. This leads to the release of neurotransmitters from the pleasure centers in the brain, and it reinforces these life-sustaining actions to keep people alive.

The downside is that a lot of addictive substances also lead to these same pleasurable releases. That means that when someone tries drugs or alcohol, they could be triggering the same reinforcements as life-sustaining functions. This causes the brain to believe that it needs those drugs and other addictive substances to survive. The brain gets confused, and it leads to substance use disorder.

In addition, the brain and body develop something called tolerance. This means that people need to take more of the same substance to achieve the same results. This leads people to continue taking more and more of their addictive substance of choice or even try something stronger. Depending on the substance, this increases the chances of someone overdosing, which could have fatal consequences.

The Chronic Nature of Addiction

Addiction is a chronic disease. It is not something that someone can simply get over in a short period of time. Instead, it is important to take a sustained approach to the treatment of substance use disorder. Once the drugs leave the system, individuals could experience withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal takes place when the brain believes that the body is being deprived of something it needs to survive; in this case, it is an addictive substance.

These symptoms can be severe, and they could cause someone to relapse quickly. Even after someone gets through the withdrawal phase, and all signs of drugs have been cleared from the system, it is possible for someone to experience cravings.

These cravings show up when individuals face triggers that cause them to desire that addictive substance again. For example, some people feel the desire to drink or use drugs in stressful situations. Other people feel the desire to drink or use drugs when they see other people doing so. For this reason, overcoming substance use disorder requires a sustained approach that targets all areas of someone's life. That will give someone the best chance of not only recovering but staying in recovery as well.

Willpower is Not Enough

There are many people who believe that someone can overcome addiction with willpower alone. While this might be a noble venture, it is challenging for someone to overcome substance use disorder with just willpower.

The first decision someone makes to drink or use drugs is often a free choice. But, it is often a choice that is based on their environment, culture, and upbringing. If someone has a preexisting mental health disorder that is not treated appropriately, they could be at an increased risk of developing substance use disorder.

On the other hand, once someone has become physically dependent on a substance,  they are largely at the mercy of their addiction. Addiction will continue to push someone to keep using alcohol or drugs, and their free will becomes impaired. Furthermore, if they try to go without using alcohol or drugs, they can develop withdrawal symptoms that force them to use again. That is why it is important to work with professionals who know how to overcome substance use disorder.

Count on the Team From MATClinics for Addiction Treatment

Addiction is a serious problem, and willpower is often not enough to overcome this disease alone. That is why it is critical to work with professionals, such as the team from MATClinics, who can help you. At MATClinics, we have the necessary tools to help someone overcome addiction, manage cravings, and not only get sober but also stay sober. It would be our pleasure to help you with addiction treatment. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you or a loved one treat addiction.

Speak to a member of our team to schedule a New Patient visit, or just to get more information.

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