Is Addiction a Chronic Illness? (Guest Post)

Addiction is a condition affecting millions of individuals in the United States. Figures reveal that the nation has been spending quite a lot to defray the costs associated with using alcohol and drugs.

A person suffering from addiction has the compulsion to continue using a substance despite its negative consequence. With addiction, people lose control over their use and it takes over a person’s life. Many people do not fully understand how substance addiction can significantly alter the chemistry and wiring in one’s brain. This is a reason why it is considered a disease.

Not everyone who uses a substance become addicted to it. There are several factors that lead to the condition. However, when a person experiences a craving for the substance stemming from their brain activity, it becomes difficult to control the urge to use.

Several people with substance abuse disorder know they have a problem. Some want to stop but they cannot. As their use of the substance continues, it causes issues in almost all areas of their lives.

Addiction as a Chronic Illness

There was a time when addiction was perceived as a lifestyle choice. But further research showed a better understanding of what it is really about and what it does to an individual.

Addiction is a chronic illness because it is a result of the drug’s effect on the brain. Just like other diseases of the brain, addiction encompasses behavioral and social elements.

There are certain wires in the brain that influence addiction. Studies show there is a significant difference in the brains of people with addiction compared to those who do not. But despite these findings, society tends to perceive it as a choice or a social problem.

Addiction and other chronic diseases have a lot in common. Among these, environmental conditions can trigger its start and eventually determine the course of the disease, and that some of the factors contributing to the condition possibly stems in the family. And just like other chronic diseases, there is no cure available but the condition can be managed by treatment, which includes lifestyle changes.

Getting Help

Addiction is not a lost cause. It may not have a cure per se, but treatments are available to help individuals rise to the challenge of sobriety. It takes a lot of work, the same as with other chronic diseases. With medication—such as buprenorphine (Suboxone), methadone, and naloxone (Vivitrol)—to control the cravings and lifestyle changes, it is possible to manage the symptoms and let individuals live healthy and fulfilling lives.

But then again, if you go off your medicines—like a diabetic who doesn’t take insulin—or go back to an unhealthy lifestyle, then your condition can spiral out of control. The same is true of addiction. Relapse is a huge possibility and is very common during the first year of recovery.

If a relapse happens—and it almost is inevitable—one should not feel like a failure or be ashamed. Instead, take further strides, seek treatment with the help medical professionals, and try again. The treatment plan may be adjusted accordingly, or a different approach can be employed to get the best results.

About the Author: Jon Richardson is a recovery coach for Willow Springs Recovery. When he is not helping people achieve sobriety, he is playing basketball or working out.  His life goal is to spread awareness about addiction recovery and that anything is possible as long as you as you have a clear mind.

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