A disease is something that impairs the normal functioning of the body. Most illnesses interfere with some organs, affect their natural functioning, and cause noticeable symptoms. According to the American Society of Addiction Medication, addiction is a disease.
Addiction is a disease that affects the natural functioning of the brain and body. It is a dysfunction of compulsive behavior that occurs because of substance use leading to social and health concerns. Addiction manifests because of environmental, behavioral, and biological factors, and there is never one influence that triggers it. It alters the brain chemistry because of the non-stop use of opioids, alcohol, or other substances.
Untreated addiction has detrimental effects on the mind and body that require medical attention. Otherwise, it can become more severe, disabling, and life-threatening.
Understanding addiction can help you understand why it is a disease and what treatment options you can opt for to control it. Some significant reasons that addiction is a disease; are mentioned below:
Addiction changes brain function and structure
Addiction causes a change in brain chemicals, which alters the impulse control mechanism. Such changes in the brain can cause unlimited substance use that can affect an individual’s social, mental, and physical well-being.
To limit substance use, many therapies and facilities are available: for example, Delphi health group offers numerous addiction treatments like detox, rehab facilities, medication-assisted treatment, etc.
The brain is a large organ that branches into several cortexes, and each cortex is responsible for a specific function. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for memory, executing tasks, reward, motivation, impulse control, and judgment. However, according to Harvard Health, an addicted person’s brain has deficits in the prefrontal cortex that impairs their ability to stop using drugs.
Furthermore, because of altered brain function, the withdrawal symptoms of these drugs are pretty bad. According to Harvard Health, during a withdrawal episode, the prefrontal cortex perceives the non-availability of the drug as a negative response, for example, despair or stress, rather than understanding it as a delayed stimulus.
The response slowly amplifies, and even environmental cues like smell can trigger the craving and cause an addict to relapse. The brain chemicals called neurotransmitters (chiefly dopamine) make the drug addict insensitive to other kinds of pleasure, and the desire for the substance continues despite its harmful or dangerous consequences.
Addiction has a link with genetic factors
Another crucial piece of information states that addiction has a connection to some genetic factors. Genes play a significant role in the development of addiction.
Some people are more prone to developing an addiction because of predisposing factors. According to NCBI, epidemiological studies reveal genetic factors operate all steps of addiction, including vulnerability, continued use, initiation, and dependence.
Genes are passed on from parents to their offspring during cell division. Hence, if your family has a history of addiction, you are more likely to develop substance use disorder than other individuals. According to NCADD, genetic factors contribute to half the risk of developing an addiction.
Another study by NIDA explains that family studies of identical, fraternal twins and siblings show that genes play a crucial role in alcohol, nicotine, or addiction to other substances.
Furthermore, scientists also study large families for predisposing factors and insight into the disease model of addiction. Geneticists compare the DNA sequences of family members with an addiction to those with no addiction and find hidden information about the disease. Such predisposing factors may vary from person to person. Therefore, every addict receives a unique treatment.
Addiction creates behavioral issues
Addiction causes behavioral and mental issues in a person. Because of the altered brain chemistry, a person may experience mood swings, poor sense of judgment, and loss of memory. According to NIH, half of the individuals who have substance use disorder also have a co-existing mental illness, for example, depression, anxiety, ADHD, schizophrenia, etc.
Addicts show numerous physical, mental, social, and behavioral problems. According to the recovery village, an addict’s behavior constantly changes; they start lying, manipulating, shifting the blame on something else and committing crimes.
A significant drop in performance, irregular sleep patterns, changes in appetite, getting into trouble, and feeling anxious for no reason occur in people with substance use disorder.
Such behavioral problems make it difficult for them to function normally and affect others. However, drug addiction is treatable; programs like the 12-step program can help addicts detoxify and maintain a healthy life. The American Society of Addiction Medicine, 10% of people who join a 12-step program enjoy long-term success in recovery.
Addiction links to environmental factors
The environment around a person changes and shapes them. The disease of addiction can come from a person’s surroundings, whether it’s friends or family. The habitat is related to the genetic predisposition to alcohol or drug abuse.
According to Learn Genetics, several domains contribute to the individual moving toward addiction. If the community has little to no charges for drug use, a person is more likely to use drugs. Similarly, family-style, problems at home, abuse, or a family history of addiction can increase the chances of addiction.
Moreover, friends also play a crucial role in developing substance use disorder. According to NCBI, friends play a pivotal role in substance use. The study highlights that a friend’s substance use increases alcohol and tobacco use in 11th graders.
Furthermore, drug abuse has close ties to a person’s relationship with their educational institution. According to Bridges of Hope, performance, stress, participation or commitment are critical risk factors for substance use disorder.
Addiction causes emotional changes
Addiction can cause altered emotions and reactions to surroundings. Drugs may make a person feel good for some time, but their dependency has a terrible impact on their emotional well-being. According to ASAM, addiction can cause an increase in dysphoria, anxiety, and emotional pain. It can also make it difficult for you to express or identify feelings.
You may also feel stressed and paranoid for no reason at all. According to NIH, PTSD can also trigger substance use. The emotional reactions created by substance abuse include guilt, fear, helplessness, depression, anger, and also suicidal thoughts. According to NCDAS, substance use disorder and suicide have common roots, and 5 million women with substance use disorder had thoughts about suicide.
Living with a drug addict is very difficult. However, drug addiction is curable with the help of willpower and inpatient or outpatient therapies. Treatment options and programs are available for addicts that help them cope and live happy and healthy life.