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Is Addiction a Disease?

For centuries, many people, including scientists and scholars, have believed addiction to be an issue of moral shortcomings. Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1940’s was the first to use the term disease when describing an alcoholic’s condition.

“a chronic, often, relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the addicted individual and to those around him.”
-The National Institute of Drug Abuse’s definition of addiction
According to The National Institute of Drug Abuse, 40-60 percent of individuals have a genetic susceptibility to addiction.

Adversely, a former professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of The Heart of Addiction: A new Approach to Understanding and managing Alcoholism and other Addictive Behaviors, Dr. Lance Dodes, MD, believes labeling an addict as diseased will actually hinder their recovery. He describes addiction as compulsive behaviors having little in common with diseases.

Whether an addict is labeled as having or disease or having a compulsive disorder, the treatment the individual receives is most important. In order to obtain sustaining freedom from addiction, an addict’s treatment would include trauma therapy. Emotional or physical trauma during childhood years or even later in life can have a tremendous impact on one’s ability to manage emotions.

Addiction and Trauma

Trauma may be from neglect or abuse, but it may also be from a parental divorce or from frequent moving as a child. Everyone’s pain is unique. Relief from emotional pain and suffering caused by traumatic events causes an addict to turn to substances. The alcohol or drug will promotes chemical changes forcing over production of dopamine in the brain. The brain begins sensing the only way to survive is by taking more of the substances, and then the cycle of addiction continues.

Treating the behaviors alone without addressing the underlying trauma will only cause the addiction to eventually resurface, in some form; drugs or alcohol, gambling, pornography, relationships, etc. The toxic root of the behavior will be left untreated. Treating addiction as a disease only, also misses the foundation of what drove the individual to act impulsively. Relapses occur when an individual attempts to maintain sobriety, but when triggered, is unable to manage his emotions. Unfortunately, this can happen often. Because trauma therapy targets the root event causing the pain, the brain begins to manage emotional triggers more successfully. Thus, reducing relapse occurrence. A well trained trauma therapist at our drug and alcohol recovery center will address these issues.

2017-10-20T18:02:48+00:00 October 20th, 2017|Addiction, Blog, Recovery|