Addiction is the continued and compulsive use of substances that can alter a person’s mood and behavior, despite the negative and sometimes irreversible consequences. There are different kinds of addiction that a person can suffer from, and the most common are alcohol abuse and drug abuse. Although, in today’s America with its epidemic of obesity food addiction is starting to become better recognized. Addiction has a strong negative stigma attached in our society. Those people who are suffering from addiction are seen as weak and lacking in self-control and are often blamed for their disease.
It is not that long ago that addiction was not treated as a disease; people perceived that addiction was a habit that can be breakable, if the person has the will to do it. There are many misconceptions when it comes to addiction and the various substances people are addicted to.
People tend to judge an addict based on what he did, they tend to call these addicts crazy and bad people. The continued research and study on addiction and its effects in the body has proved that addicts are not bad people or crazy. With their continued use and exposure to addictive substances and behaviors, their brain has been damaged. They have lost control over their emotions, behavior and actions. Addiction causes brain damage which is similar to what brain cancer does to the brain. Before man came to realize that addiction is a disease in the brain, it was believed that the only way to treat an addict is to engage them in self-improving and confidence building talks and group sessions,or lock them up in mental institution and “dry them out”. This has led people to think that addicts with low self-esteem and who lack will power will not be able to come out of addiction.
Since addiction is now perceived as a brain disease, lets take a look at the part of the human brain that addiction does damage. It is the mesolimbic dopamine system, which is partly responsible for movement, compulsion and preservation functions. Dopamine is an organic chemical in the brain that helps control the pleasure and rewards center. If the dopamine is constantly stimulated, this can cause changes in the dopamine levels in the brain which is also linked to compulsive drug abuse. Once the mesolimbic dopamine system is damaged in the brain, the person will lose control for his movements, compulsion and preservation.
Addicts can commit a crime, especially if that person is “high” and not thinking properly. The crime he can commit can range from pick pocketing to murder. However there was a belief that all addicts are criminals and they need to be punished because they are addicts. Some countries still believe this. What we must understand is that addiction can impair the brain’s thinking which can make the person commit petty crimes or even worse. The person can be tried for the crime he did, but every addict must be treated and not just punished because they are an addict.
Another misconception on addiction, especially in the form of drug abuse is that when a person is a drug addict then it means he is addicted to a certain drug. This does not hold any truth since the drug that the person is addicted matches the chemicals that can stimulate the dopamine level in the brain. A person can be addicted to two or three types of drugs, but certainly not all drugs. It is not at all unusual for an addict to have several addiction or “cross addictions”
Drug rehabilitation and other addiction rehabilitation centers would often portray that the only way to treat an addict is through therapy sessions. Many are not aware that medicines can also help in treating people with addiction. People that are addicted to drugs and alcohol can be detoxified using medicines. The use of methadone and suboxone to treat opiate addiction is seeing some great success. This is to make sure that any toxic chemicals that can harm the body will be flushed out of the system. There are also medications that can be given to former addicts that are on their way to recovery. These medications will ensure that they will no longer crave for drugs or alcohol.
Support groups for people with addiction such as Alcoholic Anonymous play an important role when it comes to recovering from being an alcoholic, but it does not mean that this group can treat them and make them stop. This support group supports the alcoholic’s goal in stopping his addiction with alcohol by listening to them and what they have to say about being an alcoholic. This can boost a person’s morale and confidence that he can stop his addiction and live an alcohol-free life. However this does not apply to all. There are some people that are not good with group sessions and may need a different approach when it comes to supporting them and being there for them. However, the very high success rate of 12 step program like AA is considerably greater than any other method and anybody who works the 12 step program can usually gain lasting physical and emotional sobriety. The one myth AA dispels is that addiction is a physical disease many alcoholics can stop but they cannot stay stopped. The spiritual side of AA and the steps cures the mind and that helps Alcoholics stay stopped and live happy normal lives more than an a treatment to simply quit.
There is much hope left for people suffering from addiction. They can still leave their addictions behind and live a normal life that is free from drugs or alcohol. These people need to be treated and they do not deserve to be ridiculed. Addiction does not only damage their brain, but it also takes away their life, their character and personality. It changes the person and turns him into someone else… someone who needs help and understanding. Careful treatment returns them to normal happy and productive lives.