Addiction is often misrepresented and stigmatized by society and popular culture. Movies and TV shows portray demeaning stereotypes of drug addicts without really understanding addiction as a disease. These portrayals can lead to a lack of empathy for real people struggling with substance use disorders. Many misunderstandings stem from discrimination and social stigma surrounding dependency and substance abuse.
What is Addiction?
Addiction is a chronic disorder of reward and motivation systems in the brain. It is a primary disease, meaning it’s not the result of an external situation. Instead, it is mainly hereditary—those with a family history of addiction are at high risk. Like other chronic diseases, it goes through cycles of remission and relapse. While there’s no cure, people can successfully manage addiction through behavioral healthcare and recovery management.
Addiction is Not a Choice
Addiction is not a choice in the same way diabetes is not a choice. In the beginning, a person may choose to engage in a behavior. Over time, their chemistry changes to create a craving. The brain develops a physical need for the addictive behavior or substance. Understanding addiction as a disease helps families realize that the addicted person is not in control of their actions.
Dependency is not a moral failing or lack of willpower. Biological and environmental factors predispose specific individuals to addiction. People with addiction are struggling with a hereditary brain disorder–they are not immoral or weak-minded. Addiction chemically alters the brain so that constant cravings limit the ability to choose.
Understanding Behavioral Addictions
A person can become addicted to behaviors other than taking drugs and drinking alcohol. In 2013, the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) altered the chapter on “Addiction and Related Disorders” to include gambling disorder due to its similarity to substance dependency. People can also become addicted to eating, stealing, shopping, technology, and sex.
People can have both substance and behavioral addictions at the same time. For example, people with gambling disorder might also become addicted to alcohol as casinos often provide drinks to gamblers. Likewise, people who mix sex with drugs can take certain medications to escalate sexual encounters. The reasons behind mixed addictions vary from person to person. So, people need individualized treatment and coaching to aid in their recovery.
Understanding Addiction Recovery
With the right treatment, intervention, and support, a person can manage their addiction for life. As with any disease, early intervention is best. Don’t wait for a life-threatening crisis such as overdose to seek help. The sooner you start on the recovery process, the better.
Recovery is a long journey, and quitting cold turkey can have unexpected adverse effects. Treatment and coaching can set you on the path to sobriety. At the same time, many people experience relapses along the way. Stay hopeful. Relapses are potholes in the road to recovery. Getting back on the wagon gets easier each time.
At Siegert’s & Associates, we help you discover a new path to take control of your future with individualized recovery coaching. Call 877-449-6393 to schedule a consultation today.