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SCIENCE, RESEARCH AND EVIDENCE BASED TREATMENT
Treating Addiction as a Disease
Scientific research indicates a proper combination of addiction treatment medications with evidence-based behavioral therapy is the best way to ensure success for most people addicted to drugs and or alcohol. Individual treatment plans tailored to address each patient’s drug abuse patterns and co-occurring medical, psychiatric, and social problems can lead to sustained recovery and a life without drug and or alcohol abuse.
Addiction is a complex brain disease characterized by compulsive, uncontrollable drug craving, seeking, and use that persist despite potentially devastating consequences. Your addiction stems from a disease in your brain that distorts cognitive and emotional functioning, creating a compulsion for you to use drugs or alcohol. If you knew your addiction was because of a brain disease instead of a lack of self-control, would that change how you view yourself and your addiction?
The American Medical Association (AMA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) consider alcoholism and drug addiction diseases.
treating alcohol and drug abuse as brain diseases – PDF
For years, people have believed that drug and alcohol addictions are due to a lack of self-control, a lack of integrity, and low moral fiber. Many individuals addicted to drugs and alcohol have been negatively stigmatized in our culture, which has forced them to carry around tremendous guilt and shame because of their addictions. This feeling of guilt and self-contempt is often one of the biggest reasons why struggling drug addicts don’t seek the treatment they need to save their lives. However, as more scientists and treatment specialists begin to study the causes of addiction and how drugs and alcohol affect our bodies, especially our brains, they are reaching entirely different conclusions.
Scientific advances in researching addiction have offered remarkable insights in the last few decades into how the brain functions and molds behaviors that can affect drug addiction. As this research continues to advance, many scientists and treatment specialists are now defining addiction as a chronic brain disease that has more to do with the brain’s neurology than outward and behavioral manifestations, as was previously thought.
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How Alcoholism and Addiction Affect the Brain
Addiction to drugs or alcohol can negatively affect the brain’s reward, memory, motivation, and circuitry structure. It can trigger a biological and behavioral response to continually engage in destructive, addictive behavior. Because addiction affects the brain’s frontal cortex, which is in charge of impulse control, certain drugs can trigger a biological response to engage in these behaviors repeatedly, regardless of the potential harm it is doing to the individual. This can create specific characteristics that many addicts face, including:
• The inability to abstain from drugs or alcohol
• A lack of behavioral control
• Increased cravings for drugs or alcohol
• An altered or dysfunctional emotional response
• Increased anxiety, paranoia, and depression
• Continued use of drugs or alcohol regardless of any physical or psychological consequences
Impacting the Brain’s Reward Centers
Scientists know that prolonged use of drugs and alcohol can negatively alter the brain’s reward centers or limpid system. The brain works to help aid survival by rewarding certain essential behaviors like eating, sleeping, and exercising with dopamine release. This chemical reduces pain and gives off the feeling of pleasure and euphoria. However, certain substances, like drugs and alcohol, can cause a high, automatic dopamine release, up to 2-10 times the average amount. This can ultimately wreak havoc on the brain’s reward center functioning over the long term.
Because the amount of dopamine released is so much larger than is usually produced, users feel a sense of rush or euphoria when using drugs. The brain often struggles to regain its normal chemical balance after the drugs wear off. With prolonged use, the brain will begin to become dependent on these substances to create dopamine and stop creating as much of it on its own. When the individual has stopped taking the drug over a few days, this dependency can create excruciating withdrawal symptoms, leading to depression, physical pain, and dangerous behavior.
When It’s Time to Get Help
Like how an individual suffering a heart ailment or broken leg would seek treatment and therapy for their health problem, people struggling with addiction need to take the same approach. Would a person with diabetes be in denial about their health problem and refuse to seek the treatment they need to save their life? Instead of blaming yourself and others for your addiction to drugs and alcohol, you need to realize that it isn’t your fault. Your addiction stems from a brain disease that can be treated with the right medicine, counseling, and therapy. Don’t go one more day blaming yourself for your drug or alcohol addiction, and speak with a treatment specialist right away.