Yet the very nature of addiction is similar to many other diseases that are widely recognized as legitimate medical problems which are operate from the will and volition of those affected. Addiction is not a black and white issue of biology versus behavior, it is a complex situation that has both medical and behavioral aspects. But to deny the biological components of addiction is detrimental to furthering research concerning drug addiction as well as the addicts themselves.
It is important to distinguish drug abuse from drug addiction when determining whether or not it is a disease. Drug abuse is defined as continued use of a drug despite negative consequences, which may be medical, social or emotional. Drug addiction surpasses mere abuse in that drug addicts have completely lost control over their ability to regulate, maintain or cease drug abuse. Drug abusers retain some sense of free will concerning their use. Drug addicts are at the will of their disease.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, substance addiction is known to be a chronic and progressive brain disease that attacks and damages key parts of the limbic system and cerebral cortex, which in turn results in compulsive cravings, obsessive seeking and irrational overuse despite harmful and often devastating uniqueness (NADIA, 2013). This definition lacks one of the most important components of the medical model, the heritability of drug addiction. Research indicates that there are many different genes that contribute to alcohol and drug addiction.
Some studies place the influence of genetics from 40% to 60% (Lull, G. R. And Grow, R. L. 2004). The parents of drug addicts are frequently addicts or alcoholics themselves, which demonstrates the weight that genetics play in the predisposition for addiction. This is not unlike other diseases which tend to run in families like diabetes, cancer and heart disease. While heritability does not alone determine whether or not one will become addicted to drugs or alcohol, the predisposition to addiction greatly increases the chance that one will become addicted through environmental factors or poor behavioral choices.
Although the behaviors that lead to drug addiction seem to be self-inflicted wounds, once someone crosses over into addiction, the disease takes over and it is no longer a matter of saying yes or no to drugs. People with a predisposition for heart disease may have poor eating habits and lives sedentary lives, both of which are acts of their own volition, but the end exult of these bad habits is an incurable disease in which you are biologically different than those without I . T Addiction amenities in the same way.
Neurobiology is the undercurrent of everything we do. Drug abuse causes imbalances in brain activity, which eventually causes the brain and body to adapt to the drug’s effects. The reward/control pathway of the brain controls the “stop or go’ impulses of behavior which induce cravings and satiety associated with survival. These behaviors include eating, sleeping, and sexual urges- the most basic of human needs. Our brains tell us to eat when we are hungry and stop when we are satisfied.
In the brains of drug addicts, this system is dysfunctional. The “go’ impulse is more active, which makes them crave their drug of choice intensely, and the “stop” impulse is less active, disabling them from being satisfied. Because this mechanism is so deeply rooted in human survival, the “newer” part of the brain, the unescorted, that controls actions and behavior is often overridden. When this dysfunction occurs, the addict is no longer in control of the usage of drugs, they are biologically compelled to eek out the drug.
The brain chemistry of addicts has physically been altered and no amount of willpower or discipline can change it. Therapy is necessary for treatment but does not directly heal the brain, making addiction a chronic condition which is another major component of disease. This may also explain why many drug addicts relapse even after years of remission. The question of whether addiction meets the criteria of the definition of disease is an argument of semantics. The real question should be whether viewing addiction as a disease helps or hurts those in treatment for drug addiction.
Relinquishing a sense of will over their lives may be unsettling to some addicts but it may become a sense of comfort to them to admit that they are powerless over a disease because they do not have to continue fighting with themselves to manage it. The disease model can also be seen as a beacon of hope in that the disease of addiction is highly treatable. More importantly, if addiction is seen as a brain disease, the categorization of addiction which detracts many sufferers from seeking treatment will decrease.
If the public has a better understanding of addiction and the acceptance of addiction s a disease gains a broader perspective, addicts will not be as vilified and will be more apt to seek help for their condition. The similarities between accepted diseases like diabetes or heart disease and addiction are undeniable. Public education and awareness about diabetes and heart disease have had positive effects on the prevalence of these conditions.
We have determined that these conditions have genetic, environmental and behavioral factors which contribute to whether or not people will develop them. Those with a predisposition to heart disease are encouraged to adopt healthy lifestyles and are earned about the risks of smoking and drinking to their chance of developing the disease. If the same attitudes and ideas are applied to substance addiction, we can put more of our effort into prevention rather than treatment after the disease has already set in.
Education about family history and genetic predisposition would allow at-risk people to stop the cycle of the disease of addiction before it ruins their lives. To those who disagree with the addictive disease model and view it as a cop out, I would ask them whether or not the idea of addiction as a disease hurts addicts. I do not believe that it does. If addiction has to be labeled a disease in order for people to empathic with drug addicts, I’m all for it.
Whatever theory of addiction works for patients in treatment is what is right tort them. I believe at I TN t the disease model is widely accepted by the public, it will decrease the stigma associated with drug addicts as people of weak character and a lack of discipline and encourage further research in the field of addiction to aid in prevention. Until we as a country accept that most drug addicts cannot help themselves, we discourage those in chronic turmoil from seeking the help that they need.