Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences.
It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain – they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long lasting, and can lead to the harmful behaviours seen in people who abuse drugs.
In a true disease, some part of the body is in a state of physiological malfunctioning and this causes the undesirable symptoms. Though, in addiction there is no physiological malfunction.
According to The National Institutes for Drug Addiction (NIDA), the reason addiction is considered a disease is because of the brain changes as evidence after a brain scan. These changes cause the behaviour known as addiction, which they further characterize as ‘compulsive drug seeking and use.’
There are three major arguments which say this evidence does not truly support this statement:
• The changes in the brain which occur during and after a scan are not abnormal at all.
• People change their behaviour in spite of the fact that their brain has changed in response to repeated substance and they do so without medication or surgery.
• There is no evidence that the behaviour of addicts is compulsive, it becomes a choice.
Early identification of an addiction is a benefit:
Early addiction identification occurs at the first signs of a problem – before anyone has suffered a traumatic event, dropped out of school or lost important relationships, jobs, their health and selfrespect.
Identification can be done through a screening by a healthcare professional, assistant professional or even a family member. What happens after the screening depends on the result of the test. Some people can learn to cut back, while some need further assessment and possibly treatment.
It’s not easy to live with an addict.Taking steps to begin their treatment and recovery can be a painful process but this is the only path that holds promise for a better life.
As untreated problems continue, family members develop their own issues. As long as family members deny that there is a problem, the problem will progress and so will the suffering.
Strategies to help your dear one who is an addict/alcoholic:
• Organize a formal intervention – this has to be the most direct approach taken by everyone who cares about the person to try and get them to change their life.
• Stop reacting and detach – the most powerful strategy if you live with the addict or alcoholic and deal with them on a regular basis, the idea is to just stop reacting to them.
• Make an ultimatum – ultimatums always work. They always resolve issues. But if you are just making a threat to try and get them to stop drinking or using drugs, then the ultimatum will not work out. You have to stick through the plan.
• Do protect yourself and others around you from any physical harm. Formal treatments take many forms and no one type of treatment is best for everyone. There are many roads to recovery, there is hope!