As the years go by, our understanding of addiction and its consequences evolves at a quick pace. Based on the research and our own experiences, drug addiction is a kind of disease that not many people understand nearly as much as they think they do. The good news is that addiction can be worked through and reversed, just like any other disease, so long as you have the right resources and help to guide you or a loved one.
If you’re looking to learn why addiction is a disease and the harms of addictions, such as opioid addiction, please keep reading below.
Understanding Drug Addiction
The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as a chronic disorder in which a person compulsively seeks and uses drugs despite the negative effects or impacts. To be more precise, they further describe addiction as a brain disorder due to the drastic changes in brain functions and circuits. Even the first usage of drugs can create this dramatic change in the functions of our brains.
One question that some may be wondering is why do people get addicted to drugs in the first place, despite potentially knowing the negative and dangerous consequences associated with them? In understanding this, it’s important to know why people take drugs. The most common reasons include:
- To feed good or better
- To be more productive or do more
- To experiment
- As a result of social or peer pressure
Whatever the reason, the initial choice to take a drug is usually voluntary. However, if the euphoria or desired result is achieved by the user, then it may lead to continual use of the same drug.
Why Is Drug Addiction a Disease?
Drug addiction is classified as a brain disorder due to the fundamental changes drugs create in the way your brain works. It is for this reason that drug addiction is identical to a disease.
Drug addiction, through the changes it creates in your brain, has serious and harmful consequences in your daily life and on healthy functioning organs. Diseases are the same, such as from the side effects of harmful viruses and bacteria. Both can lead to serious and harmful symptoms that could follow you for the rest of your life. If left untreated, both will put your life, or the lives of your loved ones, at serious risk.
Additionally, drug addiction is not simply a moral choice — it’s called an addiction for a reason. The changes that drugs make to your brain create a constant need for seeking out and taking more of the substance, which is completely outside of the conscious control of the user. It’s the same way you can’t sleep off a serious illness or decide not to be sick one day after suffering from an illness for weeks on end. The initial choice to take the drug may be your own, but how your brain reacts and rewires itself is not up to you.
On a brighter note, addiction is largely preventable and treatable by trained professionals, just like some diseases are, especially the earlier they are identified and consulted. There is a large volume of medical literature and research on the effects and treatment of drug addiction, and a licensed professional will be more than capable of helping you or someone you know through the path to recovery.
Harms of Opioid Addiction
The first and foremost harm of opioid addiction is overdose. An opioid overdose occurs when the drug overwhelms and interrupts the brain’s and body’s natural ability to breathe. You can identify if someone is experiencing an opioid overdose based on their breathing — if it’s slow, shallow, irregular or stopped completely — and whether their face color has turned a paler color, they’re unresponsive to stimuli and more.
For pregnant women, opioid addiction poses a significant threat to both the mother and the child, leading to addiction and symptoms of withdrawal in the newborn. In addition to this, newborns exposed to opioids could also be born prematurely, be forced to stay in the hospital after birth for a longer amount of time, have a higher likelihood of being re-hospitalized shortly after birth, be born with birth defects and other negative outcomes.
On a day-to-day basis, opioid addiction can have several negative effects on how you operate and experience things, such as drowsiness, mental fog, nausea, and constipation. In addition to potentially developing a dependency on the drug, these symptoms can create significant disruptions in your work life, family life, and relationships with friends.
How to Help Treat Opioid Addiction
Due to the vast amount of research and literature on opioid addiction, a primary and effective way of treating opioid addiction disease has been studied and honed. This method is called Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT).
This treatment method is essentially a developed way of tackling addiction through both medication and counseling, and it’s proved to be the most effective way to treat it. Some of the medications you can expect to take while undergoing MAT are Buprenorphine and Methadone, which have been created to relieve symptoms of withdrawal and relieve cravings.
Naltrexone is also an addiction treatment medication, but it often comes about later in treatment. You can only take this medication after being completely free from all opioids, once you have completed the detox portion of treatment. It essentially blocks the euphoric and addictive effects of opioids. In addition to medication, you can expect to have several counseling sessions with trained and licensed therapists and counselors. These can range from individual sessions to group sessions, both of which are beneficial for your path to recovery.
However, the most important step to treatment is knowing when it’s time to begin. If you or a loved one have consistently been in contact with opioids or has displayed any symptoms that indicate an opioid addiction, calling a certified professional or talking with the individual should be your first step. From there, the doctor or counselor you consult with can guide you on the course of action that works best for you.
Recover From Addiction at Applegate Recovery
Recovering from opioid addiction can be challenging, frustrating, and intimidating. That’s why you need trusted and proven professionals guiding you to the recovery you deserve. At Applegate Recovery, our trained team of experts use the latest MAT techniques and treatments to help you break your addiction and take ownership of your life. Being a medically assisted treatment center, we have a proven track record of doing just that. If you’re ready to take the first step, we’ll help guide you through the rest.