Addiction is a difficult disease. It is an involuntary habitual dependence, whether physiological or psychological, on substances or practices. Addiction, which may also be called dependency, may be to physical substances such as drugs and alcohol, as well as to activities such as gambling, internet usage, exercise and sex. While many people engage in these substances and activities without becoming addicted, others are driven by involuntary compulsive tendency towards them. [Read more…]
Despite an estimated 23.5 million people needing treatment for substance abuse in 2009, only 11.2% of these individuals actually got treatment at a special facility, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The reasons for this are multifaceted. Access to treatment is limited, and many drug rehab centers offer inadequate services that do not effectively treat drug addiction. Additionally, many of these rehab facilities use the term “addict” to describe the individuals they proclaim to help. Moving away from the term “addict” can help effective drug rehabilitation facilities provide a more caring, compassionate quality of care.
The Stigma Associated with the Label “Addict”
Many people writing or talking about substance abuse do not know how to effectively talk about it. The topic is often shrouded in secrecy and stigma in our society. As a result, people struggling with drug addiction try to hide their problem or avoid treatment. This sense of shame causes many people to steer clear of drug rehab centers, despite knowing that they need to get help.
One of the reasons for this is that our society has an unhelpful way of conceptualizing addiction. The term “addict” defines a person by his or her disease. Rather than being a person in pain who needs compassion, an “addict” is someone who is broken. Furthermore, many people believe that once a person is an addict, that person will always be an addict. This further penalizes people struggling with addiction, who internalize the message that they will always be damaged or broken. Many drug rehab programs perpetuate this message, which is prominent in the Twelve Step program: you will always be an addict, and you must learn how to cope with the addiction. [Read more…]
By Constance Scharff, Ph.D.
It is no overstatement to suggest that prescription painkiller and heroin abuse is killing too many people we care for. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 44 people die in the US each day from prescription painkiller overdose. Countless others become addicted. The death rate has been rapidly increasing since the turn of the century. Why? There has been a great deal of finger pointing. Some blame doctors for overprescribing. Overprescribing potent medications was part of the problem initially. Physicians don’t want to see their patients suffer. If pain is treatable, why not bring patients relief?
Unfortunately, the effort to treat every ache and pain coupled with a growing expectation among patients that every ache and pain should be treated, has gotten us into a quagmire that is literally causing tens of thousands of deaths each year. Are physicians responsible?
Not really. The truth is physicians in America don’t receive adequate training to recognize or treat addiction. It isn’t a condition most doctors want to deal with. Outside of drug seeking and illnesses associated with long-term substance abuse, most physicians will have only peripheral experience with addicts. Yet, there is a disconnect here, because while few physicians are trained to recognize addiction, let alone intervene, the public views doctors as experts in all things medical. When a physician prescribes a medication, the patient’s expectation is that the physician is aware of all the potential negative outcomes associated with that drug. Though unfair to both the doctor and patient, lack of education and incorrect public perception are part of the problem feeding this national epidemic. [Read more…]
Alcoholics Anonymous began in the 1930s with 12-step meetings that helped people with drinking problems get sober. Since then, men and women addicted to alcohol and drugs have started their journeys toward recovery with AA’s essential first step: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.” It is a statement with profound implications, both for the people who are ready for their lives to change and their family members.
“Addiction is a family disease that stresses the family to the breaking point, impacts the stability of the home, the family’s unity, mental health, physical health, finances and overall family dynamics,” according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). It is often difficult to understand and remember that addiction is a complex, chronic brain disease. However, treatment is available and lasting recovery is possible. Furthermore, professionals who treat addiction believe that viewing the condition as a family disease needs to be part of the healing process.
Current Research on Addiction
Genetics play a role in addiction. A study published in Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics explains that both genetic and environmental variables cause a person to begin drinking alcohol or using drugs. A person’s risk for addiction is related to whether they have relatives with addiction. That risk is highest with cocaine and lowest for hallucinogens, according to research that compared 10 different kinds of addictive agents, including alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana. [Read more…]
Addiction is a disease where the patient controls the outcomes
By Michael Campbell
In 1956 the American Medical Association declared that alcoholism is a disease. The definition was enlarged over the years to include drugs and by 1991, when the AMA expanded the classification of alcoholism to both its medical and psychiatric sections; the disease was generally described as “addiction.” However, decades later, the debate over “what is addiction” continues, because it is a disease like no other.
The addicted person sometimes takes comfort in being able to rationalize their poor behavior by explaining that they have a disease. But few people will fall for this “get out of jail free” justification. It is hard to compassionately embrace the concept of sickness when someone intentionally lies, manipulates and acts in a selfish manner. The symptoms of addiction do not look like other diseases, which usually have obvious physical signs. Instead, addiction’s trademark qualities are denial, rationalization and minimization.