Addiction Is a Disease

Topics: Addiction, Drug addiction, Nicotine Pages: 5 (1406 words) Published: November 9, 2008
Many people believe the misconception that an addiction is a moral problem and not a disease. To better understand the reasons why an additicition is in fact a disease; I will identify several types of addictions, and the problems associated with them. I will examine reasons why certain people are more susceptible for developing an addiction. Also, I will determine why many addicts deny their problems and many recovery methods addicts use to fight their illness. Researching these issues, will help aid my claim that addiction is a disease.

Addictions can form from using mood altering drugs such as, nicotine, alcohol, cocaine and caffeine, or behavioral processes as with gambling, eating, sex or shopping (Schwartz 21). Schwartz defines “An addiction, as is any process over which people are powerless, which leads them into behavior inconsistent with personal values, and which they are unwilling to give up, often at the expense of work, relationships or family.”(21) Behavioral processes, such as gambling, provide the brain with a sense of gratification, while ignoring the resulting consequences (Henderson 154). Psychologists compared the conditioning effects produced by a slot machine with similar conditioning experiments on animals. A slot machine may dispense a reward at unexpected times but a person will continue to use the machine even though a reward is not guaranteed. Animals that performed certain behaviors were given a reward at unforeseen intervals. Although, they were not always given a reward they continued the behavior in the lure of possibly receiving a reward. This test demonstrates that a specific behavioral response can be instilled into the brain, regardless of the subsequent outcome. Activities like gambling arouse the pleasure center of the brain by releasing dopamine (Friedman 29). Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that recognizes feelings of pleasure. The abundance of dopamine results in an over stimulation to the pleasure center of the brain, producing a euphoric effect and reinforces addicts to repeat the behavior. Cocaine, which is a stimulant, has been closely compared to gambling. It also stimulates the pleasure center of the brain. Without that stimulation, the withdrawal symptoms of cocaine are similar to those associated with gambling (Henderson 57). Cocaine and other mood altering drugs can release much more dopamine than natural experiences create (Friedman 169). When your mind indulges in a reward, it is not concerned whether it originates from a substance or an experience.

Occasional use of drugs, alcohol and indulgent behaviors does not necessarily lead to addiction. It is important to understand underlying factors that may contribute to addiction. Psychiatric disorders, social factors and agent factors are just a few contributors to developing addictions (Henderson 122). Psychiatric disorders often coincide with addiction, which is often referred to as a “dual diagnosis”. Individuals with a psychiatric disorder such as depression or anxiety may be more prone to developing addiction problems. A survey referred to as Epidemiological Catchment Area or EPA was conducted to examine psychiatric disorders and how it correlates to addiction problems (Henderson 136). Households from several varying geographical locations participated and the results indicated individuals with psychiatric disorders were more likely to develop an addiction. Many addicts claim their addiction was the result of trying to self-medicate a psychiatric disorder. It is often difficult to determine if the psychiatric symptoms were present before the chemical addiction (Thombs 230). Results from the EPA study also concluded that a person with a substance addiction is at a higher risk of developing a psychiatric disorder (Henderson). Many people use alcohol or substances in social situations. Some individuals believe the use of a substance, such as alcohol, may...

Cited: Berman, Linda and Mary-Ellen Siegel. Behind the 8-Ball. New York: Simon & Schuster,
Custer, Robert and Harry Milt. When Luck Runs Out. New York: Facts on File
Publications, 1985.
Friedman, David. False Messengers: How Addictive Drugs Change the Brain. Florida:
CRC Press LLC, 1999
Henderson, Elizabeth Connell. Understanding Addiction. Jackson, Mississippi:
University Press of Mississippi, 2001.
Schwartz, Patricia. “The Analysis of Addictions.” The Women’s Review of Books. 5.3
(1987): 21
Thombs, Dennis. Introduction to Addictive Behaviors (3rd Edition). New York: Guilford
Publications, Incorporated, 2006.
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