Is Drug Addiction a Disease? In What Way?

Most addicts blame themselves for their struggles with addiction. They often see themselves weak, and lacking sufficient willpower for taking control of their lives. If you’ve been struggling with substance use disorder and want to find a way out, it’s important to acknowledge your addiction as a disease. Also known as chemical dependency, this is a state in which your brain and body can no longer function effectively without alcohol or drugs. Once you’ve reached this state, seeking professional treatment is always the best choice. With the right medical support and resources, you can safely and comfortably detox. You can also start learning more about the causes of your addiction, and the best strategies for managing it over the long-term. Understanding the chemical changes that take place in your brain as the result of prolonged drug use makes it a bit easier to recognize addiction as a disease. When you use drugs to feel good, your brain releases chemicals that create intense feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and even increased confidence. These chemicals are known as neurotransmitters.

Not only do they make you feel good, but they also perform many other functions throughout your body. For instance, getting a massive flood of dopamine while getting high might make you feel relaxed, but this same chemical also plays a hand in your fine motor control, the movement of specific muscles, and your level of motivation among other things. Using drugs on a daily basis will regularly flood your body with dopamine. However, the body works to correct this imbalance by limiting its own normal dopamine release. As a result, drug users have a hard time feeling relaxed unless they’re actively getting high, and when they stop using drugs outright, their bodies send out strong distress signals. These signals are the symptoms of withdrawal and they are but one of several indications that drug abuse has turned into the disease of addiction.

Understanding the Disease of Addiction

Certain substances can have a long-term impact on how the brain functions. Once a person is chemically dependent upon drugs, both the body and brain must relearn how to function without being high. In this sense, the disease of addiction is in large part, the direct result of substance abuse. Using too many substances for too long can lead to changes in brain chemistry, brain functioning, and even the overall size of the brain. These changes can make quitting without support downright impossible. However, there are also a number pre-existing factors that make a person more prone to developing the disease of addiction. Although some substances are more addictive than others, some people are more likely to have problems quitting them.

For these individuals, getting high triggers a greater release of “feel good” chemicals. It causes immeasurable feelings of elation and relaxation that far exceed the experiences of others. Not only do these individuals feel better than most when using substances, but they also tend to feel a lot worse when quitting them. This difference in response is the result of differences in a person’s natural, pre-addiction brain chemistry due to genetic predisposition. As an example, if your mother, father, or sibling was a drug addict, there’s a pretty good chance that regularly using drugs will have the same impact on you. Another physiological factor that’s a common cause of addiction is the existence of an undiagnosed mental health disorder.

If you’ve spent much of your life dealing with chronic depression or chronic anxiety, the feelings of euphoria gained from using substances might seem like an effective self-treatment. People with:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

often use substances as a way to feel normal. For these individuals, drugs that make others feel excitable and aggressive, may make them feel calm and at ease. Sadly, self-treating mental health issues with illicit drugs or alcohol often causes these conditions to worsen. Over time, people find themselves using more and more substances to offset these changes, and to simply keep themselves afloat. When these individuals attend addiction treatment, they’ll likely receive help for both their addictions and the underlying mental health issues that have ultimately caused them to use. Sometimes addiction has underlying causes that are purely psychological in nature. For instance, if a person has an incredibly low sense of self-worth, drinking or using drugs may be something that this individual chooses to do as a way to fit in.

Not only do “feel good” chemicals provide feelings of relaxation and happiness, but they can also make drug users feel more courageous, strong, and confident. Returning to substances again and again is a way for these individuals to both gain social acceptance, and feel capable of handling the increased attention they receive. No matter what the underlying causes of addiction are, the resulting battle is a lifelong one. Fortunately, even though addiction cannot be cured, with the right help and support, it can be successfully managed. To get on the path to wellness, stability, and good health, call us today at 833-497-3812. We can help you find the perfect addiction treatment program for getting your life back on track and keeping it there.