woman with the disease of addiction

Understanding Drug Addiction as a Disease

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Drug addiction in itself is a complex disorder, and those who suffer from it may have tremendous difficulty in trying to understand what they are up against as they try to find a way to overcome their addiction. For many who find themselves stuck in the seemingly never ending cycle of drug dependence and addiction, the magnitude of what they are up against can feel overwhelming. For many who are early in recovery, they must find a way to conceptualize and define drug addiction in order for them to get in the mindset they need to get the help they need.

Perhaps the most common philosophy that is held by addicts and addiction professionals alike is that drug addiction is a disease that needs to be treated in order for the addict to get better. By understanding drug addiction as a disease, those who are struggling can put context and a “face” their disorder and they are better able to take a course of action that can help them break the vicious cycle of addiction once and for all. If you or a loved one are battling drug addiction and need help, First Steps Recovery understands the pain and frustration you are going through and can help you recover. Call us toll-free today and learn more about our evidence-based drug treatment programs.

What is the Disease Model of Addiction?

In order to understanding the concept of drug addiction as a disease, it is helpful to know about the disease model of addiction. According to the disease model, addiction is a brain disease that is characterized by altered brain structure and functioning. These brain abnormalities causes people to become addicted to substances and those activities revolving around the use of substances and it considers addiction irreversible once acquired. In order to recover from the negative effects of this disease, newly recovering addicts must be able to completely abstain from all addictive substances and activities. This can be accomplished through comprehensive drug treatment, aftercare programs and support through 12-step and other similar sober support groups.

The concept of drug addiction being a disease has been in existence for only a few decades. Before the disease model of addiction took shape, people viewed drug addiction as a moral or spiritual failing and drug addicts were viewed in a less than favorable light. As research into addiction started in earnest in the 1930’s, there was a slow but gradual shift in the understanding of drug addiction as a whole. Once the disease model of addiction was created, those who were suffering from drug and alcohol addiction were seen in a more humane light and the overall message that recovery is possible become commonplace.

Looking at Drug Addiction as a Disease

The disease model of addiction has been the common framework used by addiction professionals for the last few decades. By using this philosophy to guide advocacy efforts and treatment programming, there have been great breakthroughs in regards to the way addiction is viewed as a whole. For example, chronic drug and alcohol use does alter brain chemistry and functioning, and there have been a number of studies that have shown that people who do suffer from drug addiction often have neurological and biological differences that were present before addiction occurred. Environmental influences such as how a person was raised, family history of substance use and other triggers play additional roles in the onset and course of the disease.

Looking at drug addiction as a disease also can help people feel empowered to get help and make the changes necessary to improve their condition and regain their physical and psychological health. While it is true that addiction is both chronic and progressive and will worsen over time, a person’s condition can improve will the proper interventions. Much like diseases like cancer and diabetes, drug addiction may require lifetime monitoring and additional help in order to keep it in check.

There are some that have theorized that a lack of positive connections in one’s life is the true cause of addiction and not due to a disease. While connections and a healthy environment are essential components, but they are just part of the picture. The reality is that not everyone who has a lack of positive connections in their life becomes an addict; conversely, positive connections don’t guarantee that addiction won’t take hold. Ultimately, connections are vital in helping lower the risk of developing addiction, but we can’t count on them to preclude it or to heal it. Addiction is about both the connection people have in their lives and the disease they have.

Lastly, when people look at their drug addiction as a disease they understand that drug use has overwhelmed their lives and they lacked the will to quit on their own volition. There are those who argue that taking drugs and drinking are a matter of choice and not them having a “choice of having a disease. It is true that people start taking drugs by choice, but as their use intensifies self-control vanishes and they become hooked. There are many people that drink and use drugs that don’t become addicted. Additionally, there is also substantial evidence that addiction runs in families. By viewing addiction as a disease, people are better able to understand that no one sets out to be an addict. Through intensive therapy and support, the addict can address and overcome their addiction and life a healthier and happier life.

Call First Steps Recovery Today

Like many people who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction, you may feel there is no hope for you to overcome your substance abuse. Fortunately, First Steps Recovery offers many quality treatment options that will give you the tools and support you need to help you overcome substance abuse for good. Our drug treatment programs have been extensively researched and individually tailored to help you address your unique needs. No matter how severe your addiction, our staff will be with you every step of your stay with us to ensure you get the care and encouragement you need to achieve long-term recovery.

Call First Steps Recovery today.

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