4 Reasons Addiction Is Considered a Disease

4 Reasons Addiction Is Considered a Disease

Addiction to drugs like methadone has some genetic contributions that play a role

If you have been diagnosed with addiction to drugs like methadone, it can be very disheartening when others consider your addiction to be a failure of character or a lack of morals. Historically, society once responded to alcoholics by labeling them as drunks, and those who abused drugs were called junkies. Culture shamed them, scolded them and told them to get more willpower. This doesn’t take into account that addiction is a chronic disease—a disease that is long-lasting and can be controlled but not cured.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse[1] the definition of addiction is that it is a chronic, relapsing disease that includes compulsive drug seeking and drug use despite the harmful circumstances. Addiction is considered to be a brain disease because drugs change the brain, specifically in its structure and how it works. The changes are long-lasting and also direct toward the many different harmful behaviors seen from those who abuse drugs. An addict does not choose to continue to be addicted to drugs. Addiction has many characteristics that are similar to other chronic diseases[2] such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, arthritis, cancer, cystic fibrosis, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and more. In the state of New York—the fourth largest state in the United States[3]—more than 40 percent of all adults suffer from chronic disease. So if you struggle with addiction, you’re not alone.

  1. Addiction Includes Genetic Factors

Just like cardiovascular disease, addiction to drugs like methadone has some genetic contributions that play a role. Addiction is a complicated disease, but there is an inherited component, so it often runs in families. It can be passed down from a parent to a child through genes. If your father and your grandfather were alcoholics, you are much more likely to become an alcoholic if you decide to drink. This is the same as if both your grandmother and your mother both had heart disease.

  1. Addiction Has Environmental Factors

There are various environmental factors with addiction. If your family eats unhealthy foods and does not exercise, the likelihood of heart disease is greater. In the same way, if your family drinks and does drugs—or if this behavior is accepted as normal—there is great likelihood for a development of addiction. Your environment also plays a large roll in stress levels and also a critical role in the learning and developmental process. If you are a teenager growing up in a home where alcohol use or abuse is the norm, you could be more likely to drink yourself if you are offered some at a party. This is just like with the chronic disease of obesity an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise are contributing factors. Who you spend your time with influences your behavior in many ways. This is why it is so critical to spend your time with others who are uplifting and positive as much as possible.

  1. Addiction Consists of Healthy Lifestyle Choices

You are ultimately responsible for your own behavior, but just like heart disease, you must reduce your stress levels with positive coping strategies and get treatment when needed. Healthy routines and behaviors are one of the best ways to combat chronic disease. These can allow you to stay active and also have a healthy diet.

  1. Addiction Changes Your Body’s Chemistry

When you repeatedly abuse drug or alcohol, it permanently rewires the brain. This happens because the continuous use strengthens the wiring associated with these substances, and the more one chases the effect of alcohol and drugs, the greater the chance of developing an addiction. Imaging studies have shown decreased levels of heart metabolism in both a drug abuser and one with heart disease. Addiction essentially causes people to lose their ability to resist a craving, despite negative physical, personal or social consequences.

If you are addicted to any substance or behavior—be it drugs like methadone, alcohol or something else—please know that you can get treatment. Addiction is a lifelong disease but can be treated effectively through various forms of treatment. You can call our toll-free helpline today to talk with a counselor who has been trained specifically in the study of addiction. He or she will be glad to answer your questions so you can get the information you need. Don’t make assumptions that you can’t afford treatment or that there is not a treatment option that fits your schedule and your responsibilities with work or family. There have been many recent changes in regards to how addiction is handled by your insurance. Even if you don’t have insurance, don’t think this means you cannot get help. There are many great treatment options available so you can start to live a clean, sober life today. Please call our 24 hour, toll-free helpline today.

[1] http://archives.drugabuse.gov/about/welcome/aboutdrugabuse/chronicdisease/  Addiction is a Chronic Disease, The National Institute of Drug Abuse

[2] https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/chronic/ Chronic Diseases and Conditions, New York State Department of Health

[3] http://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2014/cb14-232.html Florida Passes New York to Become the Nation’s Third Most Populous State, Census Bureau Reports, The United States Census Bureau, December 23, 2014