Many friends and loved ones don’t understand why addicted people don’t just stop abusing substances. The truth is they can’t. Once an addiction takes hold, the addicted person loses control. This is because addiction is a disease. In fact, it’s a mental health disease that influences behaviors and decision-making.
How is Addiction a Disease?
The American Society of Addiction Medicine describes addiction as chronic, but treatable. It’s a medical disease, they say, “involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences.” People can become addicted to substances, medications, behaviors, and more.
Substances react specifically on receptors in the brain. They can distort thinking, behavior and body functions, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Although both body and mind doctors acknowledge the disease, the stigma of weakness or laziness persists.
The University of Michigan Health describes how addiction is a disease.
“The first time individuals drink or take drugs they do so voluntarily and [they] believe they can control their use. With time, more and more alcohol or drugs are needed to achieve the same level of pleasure and satisfaction as when they first started. Seeking out and taking the substance becomes a near-constant activity, causing significant problems for them and their family and friends. At the same time, progressive changes in the brain drive the compulsive, uncontrollable drug use known as addiction.”
Once you learn that addiction is a disease, you also realize that it’s not a moral failing. In fact, you may even realize that you’re not in control of your addiction. That’s the first step in recovery: admitting that there’s a problem. The next step is getting help.
Telling Loved Ones that Addiction is a Disease
Reaching out to friends and family for help overcoming an addiction can be daunting. If family members or loved ones have no experience with addiction, then they may have a misinformed response. Those responses can be hurtful.
Here at Recovery in Motion, we value the support and healing of your loved ones. We understand the significance of a family torn apart by addiction coming together to heal. So, we want to encourage you to reach out to anyone who can help your journey to recovery. We’ve listed a few things you can mention to your support system that will help them come around.
Addiction is a Disease that’s Chronic
Scientific evidence now supports what medical experts have known for a long time: addiction is a disease.
It is a chronic, yet treatable disease. Experts often compare it to diseases, such as cancer and diabetes. Similar to addiction, they have no cure, but with treatment, patients can live a happy, healthy life. If you don’t treat addiction, it gets gradually worse over time. For many unfortunate souls, it ends with the unthinkable. On the other hand, this chronic disease can end well with treatment.
Addiction is a Disease that’s Treatable
Treatment is imperative for an addiction patient. Not only can it heal your mind and body, but also your spirit. Medications are often helpful in minimizing unbearable withdrawal symptoms during detox. These medications increase the patient’s stamina for completing detox by making the symptoms more comfortable.
Counseling and other therapies during treatment heal the brain from the damage the addiction has done. Treatment also re-teaches patients how to live a self-sufficient life without drugs or alcohol. Addiction is a disease that takes everything away from the addicted person. Treatment helps the patient to rebuild life skills for a lifestyle in recovery.
Addiction is a Disease that Affects the Whole Family
Whether you’re the baby of the family in your home or the spouse, addiction affects your family. Each member of an addicted person’s household is impacted by one person’s addiction. Because addiction is genetic, it’s often a vicious cycle in generations of one family. But treatment can stop that cycle dead in its tracks.
Additionally, children may not be a part of the family that starts the vicious cycle. For example, a predisposed stepparent may enter the home. This creates other risks, such as child abuse, subdued social development, or a lack of self-esteem. These affects often begin addiction cycles of their own. Treatment can stop these cycles in their tracks, as well.
It’s Never Too Late
Addiction is a disease. The good news is that it’s never too late to treat it. No one is “too far gone” or “too set in their ways” to overcome addiction and heal. On the other hand, it’s never too early to seek help either. The sooner an addicted person gets help for their addiction, the easier it is to overcome.
We invite you and/or your family to contact us. We’ll be able to answer your questions and discuss an individual treatment plan that suits your needs. We’ll also discuss the needs of your family. Our goal is to help you heal and to help your family find a way back to the strong unit it used to be. In fact, after addiction treatment, your family unit may be even more solid than it was before. Contact us today.
 “American Society of Addiction Medicine.” ASAM Definition of Addiction, 15 Sept. 2019, www.asam.org/Quality-Science/definition-of-addiction.
 Hardess, Jillian. “Science Says: Addiction Is a Chronic Disease, Not a Moral Failing.” Is Addiction a Disease? Science Says Yes, 19 May 2017, healthblog.uofmhealth.org/brain-health/science-says-addiction-a-chronic-disease-not-a-moral-failing.
 Parekh, Renna. “What Is Addiction?” What Is Addiction, Jan. 2017, www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/addiction/what-is-addiction.