Addiction is a serious disease that impacts the lives of millions of people every year. Medical experts have long been aware that addiction is a disease, and that those who suffer from addiction require both serious medical and psychiatric help. Unfortunately, however, there is still a great deal of societal stigma around addiction and alcoholism. These stigmas have a number of very damaging effects on addicts, their loved ones, and anyone else who is impacted by addiction. The idea that drug and alcohol abuse represents moral weakness and not an illness is not only unhealthy, it is simply incorrect.
Addiction and Brain Function
The idea that an addict is choosing to continue using is simply not supported by science. When a person is addicted to a substance of any kind, their brain’s reward receptors become highly accustomed to the high or reward that comes with using. This means that their mental processes and the way in which their brain operates are both completely altered to the point that an addict thinks primarily about finding and using more drugs. The impulse an addict feels to use is so strong and all consuming that they are virtually powerless to stop it.
When the brain’s reward receptors do not get the substance they are addicted to, they send strong signals to the body that are essentially prompts for the brain to find a way to procure more substance. These signals, often referred to as withdrawal symptoms, are very uncomfortable and may even be dangerous. Withdrawal symptoms vary from substance to substance but may include nausea, severe headaches, convulsions, and seizures. This often means that even when an addict does not want to use any longer, they may be unable to stop using without adequate medical support through the withdrawal and recovery process.
Judging Addicts Has Devastating Results
It is important that societal stigmas surrounding addiction be lifted because of the fact that stigmatizing addiction can make it even more dangerous than it already is. An addict who feels judged by those around them may be far less likely to admit that they have a problem and need to seek treatment. Placing moral judgement on an addict can also greatly increase feelings of isolation by the addict, which can have the effect of causing them to sink further into addiction. Feelings of anger, guilt, shame, and low self worth are all associated with addiction and using, and an addict whose loved ones judge them rather than providing empathy and support is far more likely to suffer setbacks.
Understanding the Disease of Addiction Gives Way to Successful Treatment
Addiction, like many complicated diseases, can only successfully be treated by professionals who are familiar with both the roots of addiction and the medical needs of the individual addict. Not everyone carries the drive for knowledge and this can be a deterrent when looking to get the most of your treatment. Educating people about the diseases of addiction and alcoholism can bring forth a new understanding and knowledge base that would prove to be an asset for those who are in recovery.
Having a broader base of knowledge is never a bad goal to strive for especially in regards to dispelling the stigma that surrounds addiction and alcoholism. An effective treatment program combines elements of therapy, physical, and spiritual support so that a recovering addict can be able to take the steps necessary to move away from sickness and towards a life of safety and health. Treatment affords those who are struggling the benefit of learning how to cope with the issues that are prevalent in a healthy and sane manner. Successful treatment will lead those who are struggling to a new way of life, and if you or anyone you know is struggling do not hesitate to get help.