November 7, 2012
Addiction: A Decision or Disease?
Drug and alcohol addiction is a very serious and widespread problem in America, and across the globe. Drug addiction is a constant craving, seeking, and using of a substance, despite the negative consequences it may have on the addict or those around them. When drug use becomes more frequent, it is considered drug abuse. Once an individual’s drug abuse is can no longer be controlled, and they are using the drug to get through everyday life, it beomes an addiction. A person on drugs has an altered way of thinking, behaving, and perceiving. There are treatment facilities all over the world dedicated to help those suffering with drug addictions. All though there are drugs to help reduce cravings and discourage drug use, there is no drug that can stop a drug addiction. Many times the facilities are not accessible to addicts, and even those who are able to receive treatment have a high risk of relapsing, or continuing drug use after being clean from the drug. Because of the history of drug addiction and abuse in my own family, my interest was sparked at and early age. When seeing an addict or hearing about them on television I used to ask myself “why can’t they just stop” . After learning the anatomy of an addiction, and how it changes the chemistry of the brain I realized it’s more than a matter of willpower or wanting to quit. It’s not a matter of being clean for an addict, it’s a matter of survival. As a person with a passion for addicts and a future of helping them on their steps to recovery, it is hurtful to know that many people think drug addiction is just a choice the addict made. Although it may be a result of the choices they made, once they are addicted is it much more complicated than that. In my research, I wanted to find evidence that supports the argument that drug addiction is a disease, as opposed to what many believe, a decision. To support this idea, I have asked and answered the following questions: how do drugs and drug addiction alter the brain, and what qualifies addiction as a disease?
Being already familiar with the definition of addiction, I began my research by searching articles on the Wake Tech databases that explained the overview or anatomy of addiction. I searched the terms “drug addiction” and “drug dependence” because often the terms are used interchangeably. It was difficult to use the ScienceDirect database because the articles themselves had so many citations, and at this point I was unaware of how to properly incorporate those quoted text into my paper. To find more specificly on addiction as a brain disease, I googled the phrases “drug addictions effect on the brain” and “drug addiction as brain disease”. It was easy to find articles that explained drug addiction as a brain disease, but many of the cites were difficult to prove credible because many of them were for rehab facilities. Some of the sites used terms that many readers would be unfamiliar with, so it was important for me to find sites that explained the terms.
To understand addiction, one must first know the definition of an addiction. “Human addictions are chronically relapsing disorders characterized by compulsive drug taking, an inability to limit the intake of drugs, and the emergence of a withdrawal syndrome during cessation of drug taking (dependence)” (Koob). In human subjects the stage of addiction involves other effects such as craving, loss of control, compulsive drug intake (Moal). One of the most important reasons addicts struggle to stop using is because drugs and the drug addiction itself alters the brain. In the past, many considered addiction to be a weakness of character or a lifestyle choice, but recently research has found that addiction to drugs like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine is a matter of brain chemistry. “The way a brain becomes addicted to a drug is related to how a drug increases levels of the...