Addiction is an extremely complex disease that affects the mind, body, and spirit. Due to its complexity, many people have difficulty understanding exactly how it affects a person. Misinformed people will often claim that it is not a disease, or that it is the result of a lack of willpower, a moral failure, or a choice. One of the most damaging myths about addiction is that it is not a disease. The American Medical Association declared that alcoholism was a disease in 1956 and declared that addiction was a disease in 1987. The behavioral component of addiction is symptomatic of the disease and affects several areas of the brain. It is easy to look at someone who is compulsively using drugs as a person who is choosing to make bad decisions. The behaviors and compulsive actions are the result of physical changes made to the brain from drug and alcohol use. Dr. Michael Miller, former president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine explained, “Many behaviors driven by addiction are real problems and sometimes criminal acts. But the disease is about brains, not drugs. It’s about underlying neurology, not outward actions.” That is not to say that people suffering from addiction are not responsible for their behavior, but it is important to remember that many damaging behaviors are symptoms of the disease. However, people struggling with addiction do have the power and responsibility to seek treatment and maintain their recovery. Willpower is simply not sufficient once a person has crossed the threshold from substance use to addiction. According to the Center on Addiction, “The initial and early decisions to use substances reflect a person’s free or conscious choice. However, once the brain has been changed by addiction, that choice or willpower becomes impaired.” Substance use reaches a point where it becomes addiction and a person no longer has control. At some point, before the disease manifested, we may have had the ability to stop using on our own, but once we began suffering from addiction we no longer had the power to stop. Sadly, misconceptions about addiction are likely to continue. Many of these myths perpetuate the stigmatization of men and women suffering from addiction and make them less likely to reach out for help. If our loved one is suffering from the disease of addiction, it is important to educate ourselves about the disease rather than fall into damaging misconceptions about addiction.
You or your loved one can begin building a life of serenity and peace of mind by making the courageous decision to seek help today. Oceanfront Recovery, a licensed dual diagnosis treatment center in the heart of beautiful Laguna Beach, is staffed with caring and compassionate professionals dedicated to providing perfect environment for men and women to begin the process of healing from addiction. For information about individualized treatment options, please call today: (877) 279-1777