Addiction is a Disease
“Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences.” –The National Institute on Drug Abuse
In a November 2016 report, former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., publicly confirmed that addiction is a chronic illness accompanied by significant changes to the brain. The many studies about substance abuse and the ways it impairs brain function have identified that addicts suffer deficits in their prefrontal cortex – the area that exercises self-control, delays reward, and utilizes intellect. For people suffering from repeated substance abuse, addiction is not a result of moral shortcomings, but instead a controlling, overwhelming prison of sorts, robbing those addicted of the freedom to live life and enjoy normal pleasures.
Addiction Changes the Brain
Changes in the brains of substance abusers may permanently alter the brain, making the ability to quit incredibly challenging. Drug use alters the production, release and pathways of dopamine – a chemical in the brain released with natural rewards from things like food or exercise. The altered brain of drug users convinces them that drugs are a reward by releasing two to ten times more dopamine than usual, eventually resulting in the reduction of dopamine production or the shutdown of some of the brain’s reward network receptors.
To overcome addiction, it is not enough for those struggling to just say no. People with addiction need the support of rehabilitation professionals, counselors, physicians and a support network to overcome the disease. Kennedy Addiction Recovery Center helps clients through counseling, therapy, group sessions and vocational training in our intensive outpatient treatment, outpatient treatment and sober living housing. We believe that our clients need a nurtured sense of purpose and to develop sources of joy to achieve recovery, so Kennedy Addiction Recovery Center has intentionally chosen our services, staff and partners to help our clients reach recovery.
While we always hope for the best, addiction is considered a “relapsing disease” because people who are in recovery are at a higher risk for drug use in the future, even if that person has not used drugs in many years.
“Is Addiction a Brain Disease?” Michael Bierer, MD, Harvard Health Publishing, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/is-addiction-a-brain-disease-201603119260
“Addiction Science” National Institute on Drug Addiction, https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/addiction-science
“Understanding Drug Use and Addiction” National Institute on Drug Addiction, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-use-addiction
“Brain Disease Model of Addiction: Why is it so controversial?” Nora D. Volkow and George Koob, The Lancet, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2215036615002369
“Science Says: Addiction is a Disease, Not a Moral Failing” Jillian Hardee, Ph.D., University of Michigan Health Blog, May 19, 2017, https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/brain-health/science-says-addiction-a-chronic-disease-not-a-moral-failing