When we think of the word “disease” a few things probably come to mind. The first few that pop into your mind might be something like: Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, or other similar diseases. However, addiction is probably not included in that group of the first ones that come to mind.
Why not? Well, because most people don’t quite think of addiction as a disease. Instead, they view it more of as a “problem” or an “illness”. And while these descriptions can be fitting, it is important that we understand the severity and reality of it. Addiction is a disease, as defined by most medical associations.
In fact, addiction is a complex disease. Addiction effects the brain and the body and boasts serious health and social consequences. When addiction takes hold of your body, the areas of your brain responsible for reward, motivation, learning, judgment and memory are all negatively effected. As a result, other body systems and neighbors, families, relationships, schools, and workplaces are also negatively effected.
The Disease Model
Diabetes, cancer, and heart disease are all caused by a combination of behavioral, environmental and biological factors. And addiction is no different – all of these same factors increase an individual’s likelihood of developing an addiction.
If untreated, an addiction can result in several physical and mental health disorders that will likely require medical attention. And if continued to be left untreated, addiction can become increasingly severe, disabling and even life threatening.
Addiction and the Brain
Over time, addiction actually changes your brain.
You feel pleasure when basic necessities are met – such as hunger, thirst, and sex. To feel this pleasure, your brain releases dopamine which is a hormone associated with pleasure or reward. And when you develop an addiction, this is also released when you drink alcohol.
This is yet another aspect of addiction that makes it a disease and also makes it so crippling. Biological changes are actually taking place.
Are you stuck with it?
Addiction can be crippling and make you feel like there is no way out…
But the good news is that there are options for help. You can overcome your addiction. However, just like you would reach out for cancer treatment, you have to be willing to reach out for addiction treatment.
There are several avenues of treatment and facilities open that would gladly take you in and provide you with every opportunity to get clean.