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For many years, drug and alcohol addiction has been viewed more as a moral problem. The addicted user is perceived as one, who lacks willpower. In recent decades, a new understanding of addiction has come to the forefront of Science.

Scientists have reason to believe that addiction is a disease. Research backs up this theory revealing that drugs have the power to change human thinking, judgment, and feelings. The brain on drugs can have a compulsive power on the person to continue using the drugs while inhibiting normal decision-making abilities.

  • defined addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disease causing the compulsive use of drugs despite the harmful consequences of drugs to the individual and those surrounding him or her.
  • An addicted person knows that it is bad for them.
  • Addicted persons do not want to become addicted.
  • Addiction is then characterized by the inability to stop.

Drugs, even alcohol, can disrupt the brain’s reward system.

In long-term addicts, drugs can change how the reward circuit affects the brain’s functions, thus affecting their relationship with others. There are areas in the brain specifically targeted by drugs including those tied to decision-making, learning, memory, and controlling behaviors.

According to Nora D. Volkow and Ruben D. Baler of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there is said to be an intimate relationship between the brain’s circuits that are disrupted by drug abuse. Addiction erodes the neural scaffolds enabling self-control and sound decision making. It is, therefore, no surprise that a drug abuser has difficulty quitting on their own. Volkow points out that for us to exert self-control; we need these areas of our brain to function properly.

Three truths have become clear because of the disease model of addiction.

It’s not a lack of willpower.

A vast majority of individuals addicted to drugs do not even want to continue using anymore. Nevertheless, they succumb because drugs have already controlled their brains to continually use the substance.

Treatment is effective.

Getting and staying sober on one’s own is truly difficult; for some, detoxing can be fatal. Like any other chronic recurring disease, repeated treatments are necessary to achieve long-term success. At a treatment facility, patients get to talk with a counselor, take necessary medications to help with withdrawal symptoms, and take part in activities that encourage healing. Recovery centers also teach techniques for continuing sobriety in the long-term.

Relapse is expected and is manageable.

Relapse after recovery does not mean failure of treatment. A recovering addict needs to continue treatment that is based on his changing needs in order to continue its efficacy.

Research shows that drug addiction has the same pattern with chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes.

A patient who goes into remission may still go into a few relapses before overcoming the disease entirely. Just like any other disease though, addiction can be treated.

There are people who have a genetic tendency towards drugs that when they start, their brains are chemically altered and the addiction has taken on a life of its own much harder to take control of. It can create a physical dependency on the user and show off withdrawal symptoms each time the individual attempts to stop using.

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