There’s a prevailing negative stigma associated with substance abuse and addiction that muddles the issue of what addiction really is. Mainly, there are two camps of thought. On one side, there are those who believe that people who choose to use alcohol and other drugs are responsible for developing a problem with those substances. There are others who argue that there is something about the brain and brain chemistry of those individuals who go on to develop a chemical dependence. Let’s take a look at the debate.
Addiction: Disease or Choice
People who do not experience drug abuse or addiction, personally, and even some of those who do struggle with addiction believe that their problem is a “moral failing,” that it has more to do with them as a person rather than something that they don’t really have any control over.
You will often hear the terms “will power” and “self-control” whenever the topic of addiction comes up. How is it that some people become full blown addicts and alcoholics while others yet can drink and even use drugs and come away unscathed?
It’s true that the decision to take a drink or use a drug boils down to a choice that’s made by the individual. But is it really a choice to go down the dark hole of addiction?
Addiction: Disease Model
The current medical position on addiction is that it meets the definition of a medical disease in that it is chronic and requires specialized treatment, such as therapy, inpatient treatment, and/or outpatient treatment.
which is the diagnostic manual used by physicians, refers to addiction as a disorder that manifests with certain characteristics, such as:
Other Working Definitions of Addiction
Addiction is also described as a chronic, progressive, relapsing disorder. What that means is this: it is a disorder that is ongoing, gets worse over time, and has a high rate of return to use, despite negative consequences.
Yet another way to define addiction is that it is marked by obsessive thoughts that lead to a compulsion to engage in a behavior, such as substance use, despite the negative impact it has on personal and professional relationships, and even on their health and well-being.
Addiction vs. Dependence
It’s important to make the distinction clear between substance abuse disorder, aka addiction, and chemical dependence, also referred to as physical dependence. Although dependence is certainly an aspect of addiction, it is also a separately recognized medical condition that has more to do with the physical nature of the effect of drugs. That is, when someone becomes dependent on a substance, they will experience withdrawal symptoms as a result of sudden cessation. This will also be the case for someone who is in the grips of an addiction when they try to stop.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, you are not alone. Recent statistics reveal that as many as 1 in 3 people are affected by addiction. The good news is that help is available. Call toll-free 844-422-6926 today.