Do not doubt addiction’s place in the dark confines of a disease. It is most definitely a complex disease that affects not just the body but also the mind resulting in serious social and health consequences. Addiction plays havoc on specific sections of the brain that are responsible for memory, judgement, learning, motivation and reward. It further damages body functioning depending on the substance being abused. And finally, it affects the victim’s social life – his family, workplace, neighbourhood, school and friend circle too.
The Disease Model
Take cancer, diabetes or heart disease. All these conditions happen due to a combination of factors that range from environmental, biological and behavioural. Genetics too has a role to play in these diseases. Addiction is exactly the same – all these factors play a role and so does genetics!
Addiction changes the functioning of the body and brain on a chemical and hormonal level. Such changes may already be present or they may be introduced due to risky substances.
Finally, leaving addiction untreated will lead to worse consequences. This can include severe mental disorders, physical complications and more. Eventually, over time, addictions can actually become debilitating, severe and in extreme cases even life threatening.
Why Does Substance Abuse Result In Extreme Consequences?
Pleasure is a major driving factor for humans and we feel pleasure when we indulge in our basic necessities such as sex, thirst and hunger. The feeling of pleasure arises from the release of specific hormones or chemicals in the brain. Addiction substances are capable of duping the brain into releasing these same chemicals in much higher concentrations.
As substance abuse increases, the chemicals responsible for feeling elated release regularly and this causes specific changes to the brain system. The receptors can become attuned to higher chemical presence and thus stop responding to lower concentrations. With time, the desire to get the same high can result in even greater substance abuse and thus a craving develops. At a crucial junction in the patient’s life, he or she will eventually prefer such substances over healthy pleasures thus completely losing interest in the normal life activities. Worst cases involve a person completely losing the sense of well-being and survival!
Such chemical alterations in the brain can stay for a really long time. It can last years after a person has moved away from substance abuse. Like with any severe disease – recuperation can take longer than the cure. Unfortunately, with addiction the victim has to constantly struggle against triggers or environmental and physical vulnerabilities that compel them to relapse into substance abuse.