Chris Crawford, MSW, LCSW-S, LCDC
Addiction: Why It's a Disease
Drug addiction is a deeply misunderstood phenomenon that can happen to anyone. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) joined the American Medical Association (AMA) and defined addiction as a chronic brain disorder, not a behavior problem or just the result of making bad choices. Drug addiction, also known as Substance Use Disorder, happens when one’s drug use becomes an uncontrollable need that hurts performance at work or school, destroys relationships and can cause legal or money troubles.
Drugs and alcohol affect how your brain’s nerve cells send and receive information. Substance use disorder rewires your brain’s reward system. Typically, our brain releases the chemical dopamine when we are doing something we like such as hanging out with friends or eating our favorite food. Dopamine makes us feel good and teaches our brain to repeat the behavior. When you take a drug, your brain releases a huge amount of dopamine, which causes your brain to cut back on dopamine production to bring it down to a normal level. As a drug habit continues, your brain will produce less and less dopamine causing you to lose pleasure in everything; friends, your favorite food, and even drugs. Once you are addicted to drugs, you need more and more just to feel normal.
As a recovering addict, it is extremely important to me that the stigma around addiction is lifted so that more people like me will feel comfortable seeking help and be aware of the places that can help them. Addiction is a chronic disease, just like diabetes or heart disease. People who suffer from Substance Use Disorder require treatment and education about the recovery community, as well as an understanding of the mental health and physical aspects of the disease.
This article was written by a patient of LifeSpring Behavioral Health. Fortunately, this patient did seek help and is in recovery. If you or someone you know is dealing with addiction issues, please contact us.