Addiction; A Brain Disease

Addiction; A Brain Disease

Imagine telling a person that they have a relapsing brain disease because they are an alcoholic or a drug addict? In fact, how does one know that they have an addiction in the first place because there is really nothing wrong about having fun and feeling enjoyment anyway, right? Well, there are a series of conditions you can use to determine the severity of addictive behaviors that involve chemical dependency such as:

  • How much priority you give to either drugs or alcohol consumption
  • Does taking drugs make you feel better, more in control or does not taking them make you feel worse?
  • How often do you take drugs and how long can you stay without them?
  • What are your initial emotional and physical response, do you feel anxious or panicked without them?
  • Has doing drugs or consuming alcohol disrupted your life and your relationships and have you lost interest in things you once liked to do?

All of these signs point to a much bigger problem – addiction. It takes center stage over your better judgment and negatively impacts the quality and health of your life by controlling your impulses, pleasures, anxieties, fears, or your preferences.

Addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disorder characterized by taking a drug more often than the prescription calls for or an obsessive drug seeking and use. Scientific research shows that all drugs of abuse have some unique mechanisms of addiction that are tied to changes in brain structure and function. Drugs change the process of communication between nerve cells in the brain, ultimately altering a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior.

For instance, a drug like fentanyl is typically used to treat patients with chronic pain or to manage pain after a surgical procedure. However, people can now get street fentanyl, produced in surreptitious laboratories and are often mixed with heroin or cocaine, then sold in powder form or spiked on blotter paper to either be swallowed, snorted, or injected. High doses of potent opioids such as fentanyl can mimic the physical effects similar to those of heroin that may lead to respiratory arrest, unconsciousness, coma, or death.

Another extremely toxic and dreadful drug that produces an initial rush of euphoria and a massive boost of energy is methamphetamine. The long-term health effects of this drug are neither glamorous nor beneficial, because, in addition to the adverse damage to a user’s physical appearance, meth releases a flood of dopamine nearly four times more than cocaine that not only destroys the body’s dopamine receptors and the ability to experience pleasure, but it also impairs motor coordination similar to those suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Heavy use of meth also leads to behavioral changes and psychotic propensities including paranoia, aggression, hallucinations, and delusion, while others become socially isolated as their addiction deteriorates. As meth use increases, an addict’s body becomes more susceptible to diseases that lead to death. Therefore, understanding addiction as a brain disease may help us all grasp the plight of those struggling with dependency.

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