How Addiction Affects Your Brain
In the past, addiction was often thought of as some kind of moral failing, a lack of willpower, or a consequence of someone’s personality. But we now know that addiction is a brain disorder, akin to mental illness. Drugs and alcohol are powerful substances for anyone, but some people— due to a facet of their brain— are more susceptible to addiction than others. For some people, having a few drinks is no problem. For others, a genetic switch in the brain has been thrown, and addiction can develop much easier.
While the initial use of drugs or alcohol is voluntary, repeated use can increase the factors for addiction. Even for those not prone to addiction, some drugs are so powerful anyone can become addicted. This includes the use of opiates, and not just street drugs like heroin, but also prescription drugs like Fentanyl, Oxycontin, and Vicodin.
What is clear: addiction is both about behavior and biology. Both factors are at play. But like any other brain disease like Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, or eating disorders, addiction is a disease located in the brain.
Features Of Addictive Behavior
While the signs of addiction vary with the drugs used, there are some commonalities with addiction across substances. While addiction is a disease— and diseases can be treated— some of the signs and symptoms are simply facets of this disease. Think about it like the flu. If you have the flu you might have a fever, cough, have a runny nose, etc. These are effects of the disease rather than the virus itself your body is trying to fight.
Addiction is the same, There is a disease and the visible signs are the symptoms of the illness.
Primary addictive behavior may include:
- Wanting to stop and not being able to
- Being consumed with thoughts of drinking or drug use
- Risky behavior while using, including impaired driving and risky sex
- A lack of recognition or understanding of the problems the addiction is causing
- Denial of addiction
- Continued use despite health problems
- Continued use despite negative effects to one’s life
- Withdrawal symptoms when not using
Secondary elements can include:
- Legal issues and problems with the law
- Dropping performance or absenteeism in school or work
- Loss of interest in activities the addict used to find fun or pleasurable
- Financial difficulties
- Secretive behavior
- Family problems
These secondary signs are not so much symptoms of the disease, rather, consequences for the disease going untreated. To compare it to a physical disease like diabetes, if the disease remains untreated for too long without help, it can result in blindness or loss of limbs, just like untreated addiction can result in cirrhosis of the liver and problems with the law.
What Addiction As Brain Disease Means For Treatment
In the distant and not so distant past addiction was not well understood, and as a consequence treatment for addiction was often greatly lacking. This “treatment” often consisted of locking the addict up in an attempt to remove the addict from society and deal with the secondary effects.
Now, we take a holistic view of treatment where we view addiction as a disease with many contributing factors. Some of these factors include childhood and adult trauma and compounding diseases like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While treating addiction itself we also treat these other issues in an attempt to identify and mitigate underlying causes.
We also teach new habits and techniques to deal with addiction and cravings, as well as provide support for the addict to help keep them from relapsing after the initial detoxification. Addiction is a disease one has for life. An alcoholic cannot have just one drink— even after 10 years of sobriety— without spiraling back into addiction. But with proper treatment addiction can be effectively managed for a lifetime.
Do You Or A Loved One Need Help With Addiction Treatment?
If you or someone you know and love needs help with an addiction, whether that be to alcohol or other drugs, we can help at Palm Beach Interventions. We offer many different types of services for those with addiction issues, including detoxification treatment, inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, many different forms of counseling, and help with interventions.
If you’re seeking help, give Palm Beach Interventions a call today at (561) 556-1979 and we can get your loved ones on the road to recovery today. Remember, addiction is not a moral or willpower failure. It is a disease— a brain disease— and it can be treated effectively. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people around the world who live happy, healthy lives as sober addicts. With our help you or your loved ones can live those happy, healthy lives too.