What is Addiction?
Drug and Alcohol Abuse: Trial by Ignorance
The dangerous cycle of drug abuse commonly begins with the ignorance of youth. Those who choose to try drugs for the first time are often looking for something to enhance the fun they want to have and very rarely think about the negative ramifications that meth and alcohol have on the extent of one’s life. Binge drinking at parties in college or experimenting with marijuana with a group of friends is often done in the youth of someone’s life and it is in those early years of their life do they develop an addiction that no longer relies on choice but the maintenance of drug abuse to just feel normal.
In other cases, those who become addicted to drugs like prescription pills, fall prey to this because of an accident or injury that required extent use of a drug on a daily basis. Trust is placed in their doctors or family physicians to have the answer to their ailment and to make it as comfortable as possible. Those who are addicted to a substance often find out too late that an addiction has developed and they should seek help.
What Addiction is Not
When you are 6 year old you do not wake up one day and aspire to be a drug addict. Through experimentation of trial and error do you develop an addiction to a substance. No one chooses to live a life of drugs, crime, and desperation. No one chooses to live a life were their morale compass is compromised to obtain a fix or a life of deceit due to their addiction. Many who have been abusing a substance like heroin for years or even decades now abuse the substance to just feel normal and wish that they could just stop.
The cravings and hunger force their priorities to become centered around drug abuse leaving them no option but to feed the need that keeps them sane. No, addiction is not a choice, but a disease that changes the brain and forces the body to comply due to negative withdrawals.
Addiction as a Disease
Those who have suffered from a substance addiction can tell you how choice no longer mattered in the thralls of their addiction. How the hunger drove them to obtain more and their addiction was like an illness that destroyed their body and mind.
If they continued to abuse the substance they survived to use another day. Once they tried to stop or make the conscious decision to end their addiction, their body rebelled, muscles aching, nausea, vomiting; the list of withdrawals could go on and with each drug having their own persuasive side effect that continued the destructive behavior.
The truth is, that addiction is a chronic disease that started the moment the substance was introduced to their brain. That both genetic make-up and environmental upbringing influences how susceptible people are to developing an addiction to substances like drugs or alcohol. When drug abuse takes control over someone’s life, they are addicted to the chemicals the drug supplies the brain.
The most common chemicals to be effected by drug abuse are dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These are mood elevators or ‘happy chemicals’ that the body naturally produces in small quantities on a daily basis. When someone abuses drugs they put a large amount of these mood elevators into the body, almost 10 times the normal amount the body actually makes.
The rush of meth, euphoria of opiates, the excitement in ecstasy; these drugs dump ‘happy chemicals’ in the body and because the brain does not waste resources making them itself, adapts to the surplus the drug offers.
With regular drug abuse, the brain develops a dependency for the drug and the chemicals it dumps in the body.
The brain ‘learns’ that this activity, substance abuse, is the most rewarding activity and ‘rewires’ the brain to achieve the drug if at all possible. So hobbies like hiking, deep sea fishing, or even playing sports becomes less rewarding, so the brain will refocus the person to go for the substance that gives the biggest reward.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has researched this concept of addiction being a disease and came to the conclusion that the changes the brain goes through during the drug abuse process reflects the behavior of a disease.
John Grab is the business development and outreach spokesmen for A Better Today recovery services and he views himself as an addiction activist with a mission to change the face of addiction.
He has seen first-hand the cyclic model of addiction as a disease and aspires to educate society about the truth of addiction. With passion and knowledge John inspires. Be a part of the solution and watch the video.