In the United States alone, there are an estimated 23 million people who struggle with a drug addiction. This is a problem on such a large scale that there’s a substantial amount of research and resources devoted to understanding addiction in an attempt to prevent it from taking hold in future generations and learning how best to treat it in the current population. Dealing with an addiction to drugs certainly isn’t easy, but there’s hope. Over time, the right treatment can help transform a life of addiction into one of sobriety.
Defining Addiction as a Disease
In centuries past, and even just a few decades ago, addiction was mostly regarded as a character flaw. Those who tried to break free from their addictions, and failed, were considered to have a lack of willpower. Today, however, we know that addiction isn’t just a choice. It’s a medically diagnosed illness, and something that’s categorically defined as a disease by leading groups like the American Medical Association.
Addiction actually changes the way that the brain functions, impacting how those affected by addiction view the world, process information and handle daily life. Many addictive substances, including drugs and alcohol, cause pleasure in the brain, releasing specific chemicals as a result. Over time, the body’s reward system only responds to these triggers. Addiction is, therefore, a disease that isn’t a result of a person’s lack of character, willpower or commitment to sobriety.
Exploring the Causes of Addiction
If addiction is classified as an illness, there’s still the question of why some people become addicted to harmful substances while others don’t. After all, not every person who tries drugs or drinks alcohol will become addicted. There are several factors at play, and they may act individually or in tandem to create the risk of addiction in individuals.
There’s mounting evidence to suggest that a large portion of the likelihood of developing an addiction has to do with biology. These factors, which can range from genetic predisposition to ethnicity, are completely out of the control of individuals. This demonstrates that it isn’t personal responsibility alone that can lead to addiction.
Environment can also play a role in the development of an addiction. Economic status, family situations and early childhood trauma may also be important in determining who will become addicted to drugs. Again, this is something that most individuals can’t control, especially in their early years.
Development may be crucial in the formation of addiction. Those who try drugs at an earlier age, for instance, might have a higher risk of addiction. This is because the brain, while not fully developed, may react strongly to the introduction of the foreign substance at a critical stage of development.
The Risk of Relapse
Sadly, many people point to relapse as a sign that addiction is chronic and therefore not treatable. In fact, relapse may be a lifelong worry for some individuals struggling with addiction, and some people with severe addictions may well be classified as chronic patients. Regardless of whether individuals relapse, treatment should always be made available.
Anywhere from 40 to 60% of patients who receive treatment for their addictions go on to relapse. While that number might seem discouraging, it is on par with many other medical conditions. No one would argue that a person with asthma, who takes medication, is doing something wrong if there is a flare-up a year later. Similarly, a person who attends treatment but relapses can still go right back to securing treatment and working toward better health for a lifetime.
The Negative Impact of Addiction
The disease of addiction can greatly reduce the quality of life for those who are addicted to drugs as well as their loved ones. On a physical level, drug addictions can lead to pain, muscle aches, reduced cognitive ability and more serious diseases like cancer or strokes. On a financial level, drug addiction can cause individuals to give up their jobs, sell their possessions and spend their savings on the next fix, without any concern to the consequences.
Addiction can also be a wedge between personal relationships, isolating addicted individuals from their loved ones. A drug addiction can bring shame and guilt, and many people who are struggling with addiction push away their friends and family because of embarrassment. Addiction also begets further addiction, strengthening the genetic component and raising the risk of addiction among future generations.
How Drug Rehab Can Combat Addiction
An addiction to drugs doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Treatment can be incredibly effective, and it has the potential to transform lives for the better. Drug rehab is an integral part of this treatment, as it sets patients up for a lifetime of sobriety thanks to evidence-based treatment, counseling and therapies.
Rehab facilities start with behavioral therapies, which can reveal underlying causes of addiction, change harmful behaviors or help to diagnose any mental health problems. Pharmacological treatment can also help patients wean themselves from certain drugs or deal with mental or physical health conditions that could be encouraging addictive behavior. Rehab may also foster new hobbies and passions, such as yoga, art or fitness, all of which are wonderful ways to relieve stress and stimulate endorphin manufacture in the brain without relying on drugs.
Attending, for example, a drug rehab in Arizona can be a fresh start for patients. Simply being in a new environment, without the familiar temptations of before, can be hugely beneficial in wiping the slate clean. In a brand-new atmosphere, and free from the use of drugs, patients can picture themselves in a new home, in a new career and with a new purpose in life.
Identifying that addiction is a disease means that blame can end and treatment can begin. Individuals who are struggling with addiction aren’t at fault, as addiction is similar to any other medical condition like asthma or high blood pressure. With treatment through a reputable drug rehab program, patients can get the help they need to combat addiction.