Addiction or substance abuse as a disease process is a widely accepted method of approaching treatment for both drug addiction and alcoholism.

There are still significant numbers of people, including many in the healthcare field, who are not convinced.

Many people may see addiction as a matter of weak willpower or poor moral values.

Because of their personal views, these people tend to believe that resources and energy is better used and directed to people who have no free choice in their condition, such as cancer patients or those with HIV or AIDS.

Addiction is a progressive, clinical, and potentially fatal disease that, without proper treatment, can lead to serious consequences.

Addiction and substance abuse have remission rates and the treatment success rates are similar to that of other diseases.

There are also a host of symptoms that are the same regardless of the type of substance used.

Understanding that addiction and substance abuse are both diseases, is essential to creating programs that better address this unfortunate condition that occurs in many people.

Addiction starts with tolerance.

Whenever a person uses any type of drug, even simple painkillers prescribed after surgery, the body can rapidly develop a tolerance to the drug in order to lessen the force or intensity of its effect.

This is similar to the way people are able to develop tolerance to certain poisons or other harmful substances.

Once this tolerance develops with any of the drugs of addiction, such as prescription drugs, cocaine, meth, and heroin, the user will require more of the substance to achieve the same desired effect.

The main goal is to get high. Consequently, people who use drugs on a regular basis will use more and more of them. This usage leads to a state of dependence.

Dependence occurs because the body has become accustomed to a certain level of the drug or alcohol being in the body.

The central nervous system (CNS) will make changes to accommodate and deal with the substance and thereby make the body more normal while the drug is in the system.

This leads to a state where the person cannot feel or act in a normal way without being high on the drug.

Since physical dependence and tolerance are not enough of a problem in drugs of abuse, including alcohol, there is a chemical called dopamine that is released into the brain.

Dopamine is the substance responsible for the euphoric high users feel when they do drugs.

Anything that stimulates the production and release of dopamine in the brain creates powerful neurological associations in the brain that compel a person to recreate that feeling again and again.

Each time this process occurs, a neurological pathway is built in the brain in order to service it. These pathways are permanent in the brain and serve only one purpose: powerful addictive behavior.

Once these neurological pathways have been developed and exist, true addiction sets in, and in most cases a person will be unable to stop the drug or substance abuse on their own.

This exposes them to significant risks including overdose, suicide, homicide, and severe physical complications like heart attacks, seizures, strokes, and pulmonary distress.

This is the real state of addiction, and it is very much a clinical disease – not a matter of willpower.

If these things are happening to you or someone you love, you need to seek immediate medical attention and get the proper treatment.

See also  What are the 3 Major Causes of Drug Abuse?

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