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The Addiction Disease

There are many diseases that are brought on by behaviors. Smoking, overeating, even simply not moving (or exercising) all have been proven to induce diseases. Heart risks, Type 2 Diabetes, certain cancers, all of these things can have direct connections to behaviors. This is helpful to consider when we explain the addiction disease. Or addiction as disease of the brain.

We are not trying to excuse any behaviors here. But in understanding the physiological aspect of addiction disease, we can see how it is far more that an issue of will power. It is a sickness that needs professional attention to be brought to remission. This will likely include an alcohol detox or drug detox and an inpatient rehab for full recovery.

man with addiction disease at lake

The Origins of Addiction

Addiction is brought on by sustained use of an addictive substance. But that is just the surface. There are myriad underlying motivators that contribute to substance use disorders. Genetics, environment, trauma, individual predisposition—all of these have their roles. But whatever the route, a person with an addiction has a brain with an altered chemistry as a result of the substance. As well, their body has become dependent on the substance for normal functionality.

Studying the type of brain chemistry may helps professionals identify effective interventions and long-term treatments. As well, each individual has unique needs. An adolescent brain is more vulnerable to long-term damage. Women and men may respond differently to different modalities. An extrovert may benefit from groups and introverts with addictions may gravitate more towards counseling.

Various addiction treatment activities are helpful for the variety of individuals with addictions. Care and compassion is the most valuable approach to any addiction treatment plan.

How Addiction Affects the Brain

The scientific progress in understanding addiction has made it clear that quitting drugs or alcohol is more complicated than simply refusing the substance. Substance use impairs the brain by affecting a person’s ability to make sound decisions. Drugs interact with the brain on a neurological level which causes painful withdrawal symptoms when attempting to discontinue use.

The brain negatively reacts to the stress of being deprived of the drugs it has become accustomed to.

The prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain involved in executive function, plays a role in the impaired ability to stop using drugs or alcohol. This part of the brain is responsible for several jobs, such as self-monitoring and focusing attention. Environmental triggers, such as the smell of alcohol, can exacerbate the craving for the substance. The brain becomes insensitive to typical and unharmful sources of pleasure due to the flood of neurotransmitters during drug use.

The Brain and the Behaviors

Beyond the physiological aspect, a person with the addiction disease has psychological brain work to do. The person dealing with addiction needs to discover alternative sources of pleasure. People who have been isolating themselves to drink or use drugs need to learn to re-acquire habitual, healthy rewards. There are ingrained habits of co-dependence and stress triggers that make them reach for the substance at the slightest provocation.

Learning the skills to choose to deny the reward of a craving can become a habit when repeated. Agonist medications can stabilize brain cravings while the planning and resourcing processes start to improve. And with help, the triggers can be redirected.

Overcoming Addiction Disease

The treatment for addiction or substance use disorders depends on the severity of the diagnosis. Full inpatient treatment may not be for everyone. People with less severe addictions may be able to make use of an IOP (outpatient addiction treatment) in order to find sobriety.

If you need help for yourself or someone you love with a substance use disorder, call us today. At EagelCrest Recovery, we are ready to answer your initial questions and offer guidance for the right path towards recovery.