What is Addiction?
First and foremost, addiction is a disease, not a moral failing. A great deal of stigma is associated with addiction. This creates the need for treatment providers to educate society about the disease of addiction, including but not limited to: mainstream healthcare professionals, policy makers, community members and family members of those who suffer from addiction.
Addiction is a chronic brain disease affecting three primary regions of the brain, basal ganglia, the extended amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. Addiction along with diabetes, COPD and hypertension are all lifelong diseases that need lifelong medical and behavioral management in order to maintain a productive and healthy life. There are times when an individual is noncompliant with their treatment plan and their disease is exacerbated, requiring hospitalization. For the diseases of diabetes, COPD and hypertension, admission to a hospital for treatment and stabilization would not be questioned if the patient’s life was in danger. The same cannot be said about the disease of addiction. It is time that we “must approach with the same skill and compassion with which we approach heart disease, diabetes, and cancer”.1
Addiction is a progressive disease. If an individual does not receive treatment the disease will worsen, potentially leading to disability or death.
Addiction is a treatable disease. It can be treated with interventions often involving the combination of medications and behavioral treatment. There is no standard path to recovery, each individual’s path to recovery should meet their own specific needs.
Addiction is a relapsing disease. “Like with other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of remission and recovery.”2 Relapse is part of recovery and should not be a reason to give up hope and quit trying.