Originally posted on https://www.washburnhouse.com/addiction-recovery-blog/is-addiction-a-disease/
Many people share the same question today. That is, “Is addiction a disease?” Addiction is a complex brain disease with relapses, much like asthma, heart disease, and diabetes. The American Medical Association even recognizes the illness of addiction now, confirming that ending substance abuse is not a matter of willpower once addiction sets in.
When you ask whether addiction is a real disease, you need to know what that disease entails. Addiction involves compulsively using drugs or alcohol, despite knowing these substances hurt you and cause problems in your life. This compulsion happens because your brain has changed in the effects of the disease. It is not a personal character flaw or bad judgment.
Is Addiction a Disease?
Not only is addiction a disease, but it is a complex, relapsing, chronic one. It changes your brain structure and chemistry in regions that trigger feelings of reward and motivation. It also changes your thought processes, specifically in judgment, learning, and memory. Your body also suffers, as does your family, relationships, work, schooling, and community.
Like other chronic, relapsing diseases, addiction stems from multiple factors. It is caused by environmental, biological, and behavioral factors with genetic risks. In fact, your genes contribute about half of the likelihood for you to suffer addiction. Some of the problems caused in your brain as part of addiction are actually issues that existed before but had not become unmanageable.
There are many resources from which to gain the answers to your own question about “is addiction a disease.” But once you have the disease, you need help for recovery. This help includes therapy and treatments designed to help you break the cycles in which your brain and body are presently stuck.
Without treatment, your disease is ultimately fatal. It kills you slowly through health problems or quickly from accident or overdose.
How the Disease of Addiction Changes Your Brain
Addiction changes your brain chemistry and structure, as said before. Chemically speaking, addictive substances cause your brain to release extra chemicals associated with feelings of reward and pleasure. The continued release of these chemicals then affect the structures and systems related to reward, memory, and motivation.
Once these physical changes take place, you need your drugs or alcohol just to feel normal. You no longer feel satisfied or happy without using. This leads you to keep using, despite knowing about dangerous consequences. That is also why you stop doing things you once loved, to find and abuse alcohol or drugs.
These brain changes are semi-permanent or even permanent, even beyond quitting your substance abuse. The changes make it hard for you to resist going back to your drinking or drugs, even after you achieve recovery. That is why you need to learn new skills and ways of interpreting and reacting to your thoughts, feelings, and urges. You must learn to resist triggers that increase your odds of relapse.
Treatment Gives You Hope for a Better Future
Although you face a difficult road, as anyone does after addiction, you can live a happier, healthier life in recovery. You simply need the right therapies, programs, and treatments to get to that place of sobriety and relapse prevention. These therapies and programs include:
- Medical detox
- Inpatient rehab, IOP, and day treatment
- Extended care program
- Dual diagnosis treatment
In your addiction recovery, you are not alone. At Washburn House in Worcester, Massachusetts, getting better together is a way of life. Simply stop asking yourself, “Is addiction a disease?” Start getting the help you need for that disease and to lead the life you truly want. Call Washburn House now at 855.298.3104 for more answers to your questions and to learn how you can surround yourself with people who care about your future.