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Is Addiction a Disease?

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Addiction is a disease
What is addiction
what causes addition

Addiction is a Disease

You know the substance is hurting you, yet you can't just wake up one day and quit it. Breaking an addiction proves to be arduous because it is not only a habit but a disease. A person drinking alcohol or taking drugs over time adjusts the functioning of the crucial parts of the brain, making it hard to stop- even when you want to.

Research calls this "brain disease model of addiction."- drug and alcohol addiction is not a problem due to a lack of willpower but an illness needing proper medical treatment.

What is Addiction?

Addiction, also known as substance use disorder, is a chronic illness that affects the functioning and behavior of the brain. Substance use disorder moves from moderate to severe, with a victim unable to control the substance use and goes ahead to disrupt their everyday life. Addicted people might even begin slouching on the job or school, increase conflicts in their relationships, and have legal or money problems, among other things.

What Causes Drugs to Become Addictive?

There are so many reasons people get addicted to drugs, but the most predominant is the promise of having a high euphoric feeling at the end.


Drugs have a high potential to stimulate brain systems related to motivation and pleasure, making them difficult to compare with other natural delights. Drugs seem to top even the most natural rewarding feelings you might think exist, like breathing in the fresh air, the relaxing feeling after an exercise, or eating your favorite meal. Drugs accompany themselves with a high sense that makes you feel gratified, making natural rewards seem much smaller and dimmer.


Research shows that dopamine is linked with the brain's addictive nature to drugs. During rewarding events, the brain releases dopamine, signals the experience, and encourages repetition. Dopamine is beneficial for natural rewards such as achieving various critical milestones in one's career; this encourages repetition.


In the case of drug addiction, dopamine stimulates the brain to continue using the substances, telling you that the experience is beneficial and to keep repeating it every time. Since your brain's programming remembers things, places, and people linked to the user, you keep finding yourself in the same places and people, even if you want to do otherwise. These reminder factors go ahead to become future triggers.


With repetition comes dependency; within a short time, bursts of dopamine influence your brain to value the drugs more than usual, natural rewards. Your brain adjusts its mechanisms so that the circuits react less sensitively to natural tips. When you are not using the drugs, you likely feel empty and without any sense of purpose.


With dependency comes a greater tolerance to higher doses of the drug- depending entirely on its use to feel okay. Now, dependence and tolerance are signs of a substance use disorder. However, these signs may also develop when addiction is absent.


When your body is tolerant to a drug, your body's state to react to the presence of the drug diminishes. To compensate, you use higher doses or consume the medicine more often. A growing tolerance to the drug and increased substance use hastens addiction development and the risk of overdose. On the other hand, your body physically depends on the drug or alcohol to function or feel okay. Withdrawal increases without the drug, with symptoms ranging from mild to life-threatening.

Medically Reviewed:


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Expert Contributor

Dr. Williams presently serves on the board of Directors for two non-profit service organizations. He holds a Master’s degree in Human Services from Lincoln University, Philadelphia, Pa, and a Ph.D. with a concentration in Clinical Psychology from Union Institute and University. In Cincinnati, Ohio. He is licensed to practice addictions counseling in both New Jersey and Connecticut and has a pending application as a practicing Psychologist in New Jersey.

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Risk factors

Addiction: Causes and Risk Factors

  • Will insurance cover drug and alcohol rehab?
    Private insurance is the most common and effective payment method for addiction treatment. It can pay for a significant number, if not all, of your rehabilitation appointments. Thanks to the efforts by private lobbyists and the government, rehabilitation for drug and alcohol addiction is now a mandatory benefit under insurance after the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
  • Paying for addiction treatment
    Ways to Pay for Addiction Treatment Here are the five points for financing that might be helpful for your treatment: ​ 1. Insurance 2. Self-Pay or Payment plan 3. Loan or second mortgage 4. Funding or Scholarships 5. Family Insurance ​ If a person has some benefits, they can use them for treatment and take advantage of insurance. If you use health insurance providers so that you can recover yourself from addiction because they collect payment regularly or they have scheduled their income as well. Self-Pay ​ The second method is self-pay, and in this method, you can pay for treatment in lump sums or months and create a payment plan so that you can pay weekly, monthly, or whatever you choose the way to treat. Loan ​ The third method to pay is a loan. You can take a loan or a second mortgage from those homeowners. Funding or Scholarships ​ If you do some research, then you can find a lot of funding or scholarships for you that are available to you there. Family The last method to pay is family. Your family can help you financially with your treatment. There are many options available for you as a key for financial assistance so that you can choose one of these methods for addiction treatment.
  • Will I lose my job if I go to rehab?
    Employees who get treatment for addiction while still at work are protected by the ADA and other laws like the MHPAEA, the ACA, and the Family Medical Leave Act, which all work together to make them eligible to return to work after the treatment.
  • How much does addiction treatment cost?
    Depending on your needs, treatment options for addiction vary from extensive medical detox to inpatient (or residential) care plans to less intensive outpatient ones. If your addiction is chronic or you are also grappling with a dual diagnosis, then long-term care at a residential facility is often the best option; but it is more costly. It's even more expensive when your situation necessitates the consultation of many specialists and the administration of costly drugs.
  • When is it time to go to rehab?
    Many believe that a person does not need to go to rehab, even if they struggle with the most severe addiction withdrawal symptoms. Still, studies show that last year almost 100,000 people died in the United States due to substance use disorder or overdoses. As 22 million people are suffering from addiction to either drugs or alcohol, there is a need to talk about this subject more casually. Many people don’t go to rehab because they feel ashamed of being addicted. There is a need to make them realize that no one can judge them if they see any symptoms; they should decide to visit a rehab as soon as possible.

Different people struggling with addiction develop different paths to addiction, meaning that there is no defined cause for addiction. These people began using drugs for entirely different reasons. Apart from cases of drug abuse beginning, NIDA gives four main reasons:

  • Feeling good; drugs lures people with feelings of high euphoria, energy, increased confidence, and feelings of power.

  • Feeling better; drugs offer a temporary solution to feelings of anxiety, stress, or depression.

  • Some people may turn to drugs to get ahead and do better than expected in activities like sports.

  • Fitting in or peer pressure, most young people may use drugs out of curiosity or impress their peers.

treat your addicton

Treat Your Drug Addiction!

Various addiction treatments are available, including medications and individual or group therapies. Every patient can benefit from addiction treatment whether they experience severe, mild, or moderate symptoms. However, the first step is recognizing the problem, stage interventions with friends and family when necessary, and support your loved one. Once the individual gets into a medical center:


A medical professional conducts a formal assessment to determine if substance use disorder exists. Results from this assessment decide which treatment is best suited to treat the individual. These approaches address specific conditions and co-occurring medical, social, or psychotherapy problems.


Medications control drug cravings, relieve withdrawal symptoms, and prevent relapses. Psychotherapy helps individuals with substance use abuse better understand their motivations and behavior, cope with stress, develop high self-esteem, and address other psychiatric conditions. 

Addiction Treatment Methods

tretment methods

Though a recovery plan is unique from one patient to another, they generally may include:

  • Detoxification

  • Therapeutic communities or sober houses which are highly controlled and drug-free

  • Psychotherapy and outpatient medication management

  • Intensive outpatient programs

  • Rehab or residential treatment

  • Self-help or support groups comprising of family members and friends- Nar-Anon or Al-Anon Family Groups

  • Mutual-aid groups like SMART Recovery, AA, etc.


Addiction treatment enables people to escape relapse and stop drug use, fully recovering:


A single treatment will not apply to all people struggling with addiction and should be readily available. For therapy to be effective, it should not only tend to the person's drug abuse but also attend to the individual's multiple needs and remain in treatment for a while.


Drug abuse treatment may involve group or individual counseling and other behavioral therapies. Besides counseling and behavioral therapies, medication is also essential in an individual's treatment.

The doctor must first assess an individual since many substance use abusers may have other mental disorders, continually modify their treatment to ensure it meets the patient's needs, and medically offer assistance and support. Medical caregivers take significant precautions during the detoxification stage- the state of the body removing external chemicals. Detoxification is a risky stage of addiction treatment that requires the patient to have a strong support network and continuously monitor drug use to avoid potential relapses.

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The Bottom Line

bottom line

Though addiction is a complex disease affecting brain functioning and behavior, it is treatable. Do not be afraid or feel alone. It is not too late to begin treatment. Remember that getting sober and staying on track might be tricky when it gets tough, but it doesn't mean you have to quit.

Seek medical treatment, form a support group, and develop new healthy habits. Form new connections and relationships and help each other navigate the muddy waters. You can do it!

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