California Highlands

Is Addiction a Disease?

If you have a loved one who is a drug addict or alcoholic, you have probably asked yourself this question many times, and many more questions like it. Does your loved one have control over their actions? Should you excuse their substance use because they are suffering from a disease? What is the best way to help someone who is an addict?

These are the tough questions, the ones millions of family members across the country are wondering. The answers to these questions can help guide you through this messy and unfortunate situation you have found yourself in. The answers to these questions can help you do what is best for yourself and for your addicted loved one.

The bottom line is that addiction is a sickness that should be treated, and you need to find a rehab program that is right for your family member and can provide them with the skills and resources necessary to rebuild their life without their substance. California Highlands Addiction Rehab is here to help. We welcome your questions, and we will do our best to make your loved one’s transition to rehab a seamless one. Contact us at (888) 969-8755 to learn more about addiction rehab.

Read more to learn about the disease of addiction and the treatment for it.


Addiction is a Disease

According to the American Medical Association and the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), addiction is a disease. ASAM explains that addiction is a “primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. It is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission.”

When we look at addiction as a disease, many things become clear to us. For example, just like many other diseases, addiction is the result of environmental and biological factors, as well as behavior factors. It causes a change in the functioning of the person’s brain and their body. Like other diseases of the body (cancer, heart disease, diabetes), addiction is a progressive disease that can lead to serious health issues and even death. Addiction can be treated, and must be treated in order for the person to go on to lead a healthy, normal life.

addiction disease

Your Loved One Has Lost Control

The disease model helps explain an addict’s actions, and it helps those of us who are in contact with addicts understand how best to interact with them. Addiction changes the person’s brain. Most substances that are abused by addicts change the reward center in the brain. By releasing high levels of dopamine, drugs and alcohol suppress the body’s ability to produce the chemicals on its own, leading them to depend on the substance for their feelings of pleasure and happiness. Over time, the person cannot function or be satisfied on their own, and must rely on drugs or alcohol for simple pleasure. This is why willpower is not enough for your loved one to stop using. The substance has taken control of their actions and their life.


Addiction is Not an Excuse

Even though addiction is a disease, and some people are more prone to suffering with it than others, this does not mean that your loved one had no role in it or that you should excuse their actions. You definitely should not allow a person to continue in their addiction.

A mistake many people make is to enable their loved one, make excuses for them, pick up the slack for them, carry out their responsibilities, and turn a blind eye to their actions. This only helps the person remain in their addiction. Family members should set boundaries and stick to them when dealing with an addict. Don’t call in sick to work for them, and don’t make excuses as to why they couldn’t make it to a family function. Don’t take away the natural consequences of their actions, because this makes it easy for them to keep on using. Addiction is a disease, but there is treatment for it, and you as the family member should help your loved one get that treatment.


Your Loved One Needs Treatment

As difficult as it may be, and as much as your loved one might deny it, they need help for their addiction. Addiction does not just go away on its own. A good treatment program will help your loved one understand why they do what they do, why they have become addicted to their substance, and what to do about it.

There is always an underlying reason for addiction, oftentimes involving past conflict or trauma. When your loved one goes through rehab, they will dig deep into themselves to discover what has caused and contributed to their addiction. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps individuals study their thought processes and reactions to certain events, and change those thought processes. Instead of your loved one believing he or she needs to use drugs or alcohol to deal with stress, to manage conflict, or to suppress painful memories, therapy helps them learn healthy ways to deal with these issues.

Your loved one isn’t a bad person because of their addiction. True, they have made and continue to make bad choices, and they have certainly hurt you and other loved ones. But they need your love and support to help them see their need for treatment. Talk to your loved one about getting help, or enlist our intervention services to help you approach them. Once your family member enrolls in treatment, you can provide encouragement, participate in family therapy, and go to counseling yourself to ensure you are doing all you can to help your loved one succeed.