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Addiction is a complex disease that affects millions of people across the world. It can be difficult to understand how something that seems like a choice can actually be a mental health disorder that can consume a person’s life. 

The importance of recognizing addiction as a disease is paramount because it creates an environment for the most effective treatment and support. Understanding how addiction is a disease can help lead to a better life for those who struggle with it. With the right treatment and support, it is possible to overcome addiction and lead a healthier, more fulfilling life.

What Is Addiction?

Addiction is a chronic disease of the brain, characterized by overwhelming impulses to engage in immediate pleasure-seeking behaviors that lead to harmful consequences. It is a disorder that causes the person to lose control over their ability to regulate their thoughts and behaviors and prevents them from making informed, rational decisions. This loss of control is due to changes that occur in certain regions of the brain.

These changes can be treated as a disease through therapy and medication. Addiction can occur with a variety of substances and activities, including prescription medications, alcohol, and gambling. Every individual can have a different experience with addiction, and it can affect people from all walks of life.

How Is Addiction a Disease?

Studies have shown that addiction is a disease. The brain’s function changes in a way that creates a lasting compulsion to engage in a behavior despite harmful consequences. It is crucial to recognize addiction as a disease because it allows room for the most effective treatment and support of those affected. Mistaking addiction for a moral issue could rob someone of desperately needed professional help.

When someone is addicted to a substance or behavior, it is an actual physiological change to their brain’s structure and function that impacts their ability to make wise choices or function in society. Addiction is a chronic disorder that is often progressive, meaning it can get worse with time. It is a disease that causes the person to lose control over their ability to regulate their thoughts and behaviors and prevents them from making informed, rational decisions.

Types of Addiction

Addiction is a complex disease that can occur in many forms. While each type of addiction has unique signs and symptoms, all addictions share certain commonalities that make them a disease. Understanding the basic components of addiction can help people understand addiction and support those affected.

Some types of addictions include:

  • Drug addiction: People who are addicted to drugs often have a strong desire to take the drug again despite the negative consequences that may arise. The drug can alter the way the brain functions and create strong, compulsive urges that are difficult to ignore or control.
  • Behavioral or process addictions: These types of addictions can become compulsive, destructive behaviors that can damage relationships and careers and lead to other types of addictions.
  • Combined addictions: It is possible to experience addiction to more than one type of substance or behavior at once. This may make the disease harder to treat. It may also require a more comprehensive treatment plan that takes into account all addictions and their interactions with each other.

Risk Factors

There are a variety of factors that can lead to addiction, including genetics, environment, and mental health issues. Some risk factors for addiction include:

  • Family history: People who have a family member who has struggled with addiction are more likely to develop the disease.
  • Peer pressure: Young people surrounded by friends abusing substances are more likely to engage in them and become addicted.
  • Traumatic experiences: Those who have experienced trauma, abuse, or neglect may be at risk of abusing substances in an attempt to self-medicate.
  • Untreated or undiagnosed mental health issues: People struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues may be at risk of abusing substances and becoming addicted.

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

There are a variety of signs and symptoms that can be present in someone who is struggling with addiction. Recognizing these warning signs—no matter how slight they may seem—can help get a person the help they need and prevent addiction from getting worse.

  • Losing control of the amount or frequency of using: There is no “normal” amount of drug or alcohol use. Even occasional excessive use can lead to addiction.
  • Excessive mood changes: People who are abusing substances may experience extreme mood changes that are difficult to understand. Mood swings may be due to the use of substances or the body’s attempt to process them.
  • Social isolation: Those with substance abuse issues may have an extremely limited circle of friends and may avoid spending time with others. They may also lose interest in hobbies and social activities.
  • Inability to manage responsibilities: Someone struggling with addiction may be unable to maintain a job, finish school, or take care of their children or other dependents.

Causes of Addiction

The exact cause of addiction is not known, but there are certain factors that may play a role. People who have a genetic predisposition to addiction are more likely to become addicted. They are also more likely to have a severe addiction compared to others. In addition, people who live in environments that support and encourage drug use are more likely to use and become addicted. 

Unresolved mental health issues may be one of the leading causes of substance abuse and addiction. People struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues may be at risk of abusing substances and becoming addicted.

A variety of factors can lead to addiction. Even if someone doesn’t experience any of the examples above, they are not safe from addiction’s influence. The critical thing to remember is that addiction is treatable. With the right support and professional guidance, addiction doesn’t have to ruin anyone’s life.

The best way to prevent addiction is to avoid using substances altogether. People who abstain from using substances can greatly reduce their risk of developing substance use disorder. If you suspect a loved one is struggling with an addiction, it is critical to approach them with care. It can be difficult to know how to help anyone who is dealing with an addiction, even if it means helping ourselves. Luckily, no one has to fight this disease on their own. If you or someone you care about struggles with addiction, West Coast Recovery Centers has a variety of effective treatment options that can help. Call (760) 492-6509 today for more information.