At this point, addiction is broadly accepted by scientific organizations as a form of medical issue. The IDA or National Institute on Drug Abuse and the APA or American Psychiatric Association both describe addiction as a mental illness. The DSM-V lists criteria for categorizing addiction as a mental health issue known as Substance Use Disorder.
On the other hand, it was not always this way. In America, there is a lengthy background of libeling alcohol and drugs and those who utilize them. Decades ago, addiction or substance abuse was not seen as a mental issue outside of an individual’s control but instead a moral failing rooted in an individual’s personality.
Late 1930’s when scientists first started to research addition, the current view was that drug addicts were just those too weak in determination to decline. As addiction was not considered an illness or disease, there was no idea of curing it with rehab centers and 12 step programs. Instead, heavy users were seen as degenerates and criminals and were fixed accordingly. They were detained so as not to be a bother to the public.
The surge of scientific opinion started to changes as developments in technology and research shown that constant use of alcohol and drug really resulted in physical changes in the brain, which inhibit self-control as well as continue intense cravings for the substance. This finding shattered the idea of constant drug use as an option and dishonored that drug addicts can simply stop using the substance anytime they wished to.
How Drug and Alcohol Addictions Changes the Brain
The important argument for why substance addiction shouldn’t be regarded as a disease centers on the role of choice. For instance, some people argue that you cannot decide to stop having health issues, but you can decide to stop taking alcohol or drug once you exert the determination to do so. This disagreement has been used to other mental problems, too; for instance, some argue that those experiencing anxiety must stop being sad. In both scenarios, it is now recognized that these diseases map to alter the structure of the brain and work that enable the disease.
Substances work by encouraging the brain’s reward circuitry. Usually, this plays a vital job in learning- it exists to make sure you know how to repeat activities that are life-sustaining such as sleeping and eating. To carry this out, it generates dopamine, a kind of chemical which causes a sense of pleasure into the brain each time do carry out an activity that is evolutionarily advantageous to survival. Thus, a connection is made between that sense of pleasure and activity so that you are motivated to carry out the activity once more.
Drugs and alcohol exploit a similar learning trail; however, they kick it into overdrive. If you consume a drug, it generates 2 to 10 times the level of dopamine as opposed to natural processes- which leads to an extreme sense of euphoria, which extremely motivates a person to carry out once more. However, as you keep on using the drug, the brain adapts to this large surge of dopamine by desensitizing itself to it.
When helping people suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, you need to stop blaming them for doing bad actions and dismissing them as weak or bad. You must know the hard web of environmental and social factors that can result in drug and alcohol abuse and know that these conditions are rooted in brain changes that impact self-control, decision-making, and judgment.