| Peter Cook
Change the way you think about addiction
It started in the 1700s. Almost 2 million Americans drank more than 7 million gallons of rum in 1770. Then, the Civil War brought morphine, and thousands of soldiers became addicted.
At the turn of the century, cocaine came. Heroin was sold, first as a cough suppressant. The 1900s brought even more substances for ‘recreation.'
Today, substance abuse and addiction is an integral part of our lives: everyone knows someone with a problem.
Addiction is addiction
Substance does not matter. Addiction is still addiction and has has been with us for a long, long time. But, is it a choice or a disease?
Addiction is a disease.
Some experimenting does not go further.
More and more researchers and doctors are quantifying addiction as a disease.
Think about this: Most adults experimented with alcohol or some type of drug in their lifetimes.
Why is it that some people can drink responsibility or just experiment with a drug one time and others can’t?
A brain change
The answer lies in the fact that you cannot choose what any substance is going to do once it is in your system. All people are not built the same. Substance abuse changes the brain.
A chain reaction
Some people's brains react to alcohol and drugs differently. Research has shown that there are biological differences in the minds of addicts. Even a minimal amount of an addictive substance can start a chain reaction.
Chemicals are released in the brain, and the individual feels wonderful and satisfied. With each subsequent drink or hit, the brain changes and addiction starts.
Soon, the natural emotional center of the brain is switched off, and the person becomes reliant on their substance of choice to produce feel-good emotions.
Yes, you made that first bad choice. For some people, it does not have a lasting effect. They experiment and stop.
But, others experience a chronic, relapsing disease of the brain. Even if they stop using, their mind has changed.
Let's change the way we think.
At Largest Heart, we believe that much can be accomplished if we change the way we think about addiction. Most medical professionals and association today see addiction as a disease.
Change the stigma
We need to change the stigma and treat addicts with love and understanding.
After all, it is not normal to keep on using substances despite its harmful consequences. Why would someone do it – often pathologically? It is because they physically can’t stop. The disease took over.
Just as you cannot do away with cancer or diabetes by making different choices, addicts are trapped in a disease they cannot control.
There is hope
Recovery is possible. We all know that. But, first, we need to understand what we are dealing with: a disease.
‘But I am sick.'
It does not imply that people can just blame ‘the disease’ for their behavior. If you are sick, you can’t help it and are not to blame, but you can seek treatment and get better. Having a disease is not a license to do what you want. For example, an alcoholic in a drunk-driving accident can’t say it is not his fault. Society will still hold him answerable for his actions.
Methods to overcome addition are often non-medical. As Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, found: a spiritual awakening is needed. The AA’s 12 steps have helped millions of people worldwide to recover from substance abuse. But, no single treatment is fitting for everyone.
‘I can do something’
It is the responsibility of the addict to make the decision to change his/her life. Underlying medical or behavioral issues that can contribute to substance use disorder need to be confronted. Still, it is a fact that addiction is a disorder. Let’s treat it as such.