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Is Addiction a Disease?

a person holds their forehead as they look down

Addiction is a condition that occurs when substance misuse and abuse becomes compulsive and continues even though there are harmful consequences associated with the behavior—but is addiction a medical disorder, a disease, or something else entirely? We answer this question and discuss addiction recovery options.

What Happens in the Brain During Substance Abuse?

Many drugs affect the brain’s dopamine centers. Dopamine is known as the “feel good” chemical because it’s released when we have pleasant, rewarding experiences in typical daily life, such as exercising, eating, and volunteering. However, when a person ingests an addictive substance, they trick the brain into releasing large amounts of dopamine, which results in a feeling of euphoria. It is this euphoric feeling that causes a person to become addicted; they wish to keep feeling very good. As a person continues substance misuse, their brain becomes less able to produce or receive dopamine. Ultimately, the individual becomes unable to experience the same euphoria as before and can become depressed. Ultimately, they try to counter these negative feelings by increasing their substance use.

Is Addiction a Disease?

Although there are many different definitions as to what defines an addiction, there are also several organizations that characterize addiction as a disease. This is because addiction has the same characteristics of other diseases, including that it:

  • Makes changes to the brain’s response in terms of self-control, stress, and rewards
  • Disturbs a body’s organ—the brain
  • Can lead to an increase in premature death
  • Can lead to a decrease in quality of life
  • Is preventable when poor choices are avoided and a healthy lifestyle is chosen
  • Can be treated

Addiction is also considered to be a disease because symptoms can recur and exist with periods of recovery.

Breaking Addiction’s Negative Stigma

Addiction’s stigma has much to do with the fact that this disease is largely misunderstood by the general public that may not fully understand how substance misuse affects the brain. A person who is addicted to a substance may exhibit the symptoms of mental and physical illness, such as:

  • Drastic weight loss
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Changes in hygiene
  • Increased aggression, irritability, and anger
  • Secretiveness, lying, and defensiveness

Although addiction may be misunderstood by others, it has been well-researched and many treatment options by addiction rehab specialists are available to individuals with the disease.

Addiction Treatment Options

Meeting Of Support Group Addiction treatment can take many forms. Many who enter a rehab center for the first time will undergo medically assisted detox and then be enrolled in outpatient treatment where they visit the treatment facility or inpatient treatment, where they live on-site and receive treatment. Apex Recovery offers individual addiction treatment in San Diego, along with family therapy. Our treatment options include many traditional and alternative therapies to heal relationships, as well as improve spiritual, physical, and emotional health. To learn more about our services, call (877) 798-4404.

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