Addiction is a life-shattering illness. It rips families apart and destroys lives. It is historically defined as a physical and/or psychological dependency on a mood-altering chemical (e.g. alcohol, heroin, prescription drugs, etc.) or behavior (sex addiction, gambling addiction, internet addiction), although it can also be viewed as a continued involvement with a substance or activity despite the negative consequences associated with it. It often starts with experimentation and social use coupled with the thought that one can quit whenever he/she wants. It has many end results: living on the streets, alienating one's family and friends, and in some cases death. For most addicts, addiction is a lifelong illness, with relapses occurring even after long periods of abstinence or sobriety. Addiction is rarely arrested without the help of an addiction treatment center.
What is a Drug Addict?
A drug addict is defined as a person who is unable to live a normal life without using drugs. He or she has a continuous craving for a certain drug. All aspects of his or her social life are disrupted because of addiction. Addicts may be either mentally or physically dependent on a drug, or both. The addict who is mentally dependent takes the drug to feel psychologically refreshed and/or mentally functional. The physically dependent addict shows physical signs of withdrawal if the substance is not available. Drug rehabilitation centers and alcohol rehab programs exist to help individuals who suffer from drug addiction and alcoholism recover.
Although addiction does begin when a person makes the choice to use drugs or alcohol, addiction does not mean simply using drugs. Addiction encompasses the feelings and behaviors behind drug use that drive an addict to abuse substances. Recent scientific studies have found evidence that drugs not only interfere with normal brain functioning creating powerful feelings of euphoria, they also have long-term effects on the brain's activity and functioning. Due to this, drug addicts lives become unmanageable behaviorally, and they are rarely able to just quit using on their own, so treatment becomes a necessity. Addiction is a state of unmanageability in life brought on by an individual's inability to control his/her substance use. Addiction manifests itself in the form of powerlessness over one's drug of choice, and the suffering of negative consequences as a result.
If you suffer from drug addiction or alcoholism, then you know how it tears families apart and ruins lives. We strongly encourage you to check into a drug treatment center or alcohol rehab program and get the help you need. If your loved one has a drug problem, encourage him or her to seek treatment, or plan an intervention. There are many treatment centers available to help addicts, alcoholics, dual-diagnosis sufferers, and individuals who suffer from behavioral addictions. Available resources include drug treatment centers, counseling, group meetings, intervention planning, and much more.
Addiction is a disease and should be characterized as such whether or not it is alcoholism, the broad spectrum of chemical dependency, or sex addiction, and should not be construed as an addict's lack of willpower, personal strength, inability to make informed decisions, or personal fault of character. Genuine willpower to overcome an addiction is a daily (minute-by-minute) struggle — battle — to overcome addiction and to lead satisfying and productive lives.
For more information: Addiction and Genetics and Addiction Intervention and Interventionists
"Drug addiction is a brain disease. Although initial drug use might be voluntary, drugs of abuse have been shown to alter gene expression and brain circuitry, which in turn affects human behavior. Once addiction develops, these brain changes interfere with an individual’s ability to make voluntary decisions, leading to compulsive drug craving, seeking, and use. The impact of addiction can be far-reaching. Cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and lung disease can all be a result of drug abuse. Some of these effects occur when drugs are used at high doses or after prolonged use, however, some may occur after just one use."
- Additional information can be found at www.drugabuse.gov/consequences