If you drive down the streets of Los Angeles, Denver, Seattle, or almost any other major city around the country, you are more than likely to notice masses of homeless people who look like they’ve been through hell and back. Unfortunately, a majority of these people are not only homeless, but many of them also tend to be addicts. As professionals in the addiction field, one of the most controversial questions that we come by almost daily is, whether we believe that addiction is a disease or if the addict made a choice to “be this way”. According to the AMA and the APA, addiction is in fact a disease (ASAM, 2011).
What Makes It A Disease?
How is this justified you ask? Generally, the first time or maybe even the first couple of times an addict uses a substance or alcohol it might have been a choice, but depending on the substance, there are effects on the circuitry of the brain and internal organs of the body.
While some substances might not immediately cause an addictive reaction, others can immediately hook the unsuspecting soul who thought they would “just try it once”. Even legally prescribed medications can lead to addiction. For example, if you don’t already know, there is a terrifying opiate epidemic that is going on today. In fact, due to this very epidemic, many health providers have steered away from prescribing addictive medications unless absolutely necessary.
A person’s genetic inheritance can have a great deal to do with their likelihood of becoming an addict. Other factors include: metabolism, weight, amount of the substance used, components in the substance being used and several others that can attribute to whether someone might become addicted or not.
Having the unfortunate task of hearing several heartbreaking yet necessary stories everyday is just part of what needs to be done in order to figure out how to help a suffering addict. One part of almost all of the stories we hear is the need to maintain. What does that mean?
After an undetermined amount of time, which also differs from person to person, the usage is no longer voluntary. An addict feels the necessity to continue their normal regimen of usage or else they feel they would not be able to function. Bodily functions could literally shut down, they feel it. This is not a myth, but a reality.
For example, if someone was an avid alcoholic and they decided to quit cold turkey there is a 50% chance that they could experience severe withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome(AWS) could lead to seizures, dehydration, delirium tremens, and even death.
The sad reality is that an addict today has more of a chance winding up in jail than getting into treatment. Our legal system seems to choose punishment over treatment. Would you condone throwing someone in jail because they have diabetes?
Without changing the public perception on addition, this epidemic will not get better any time soon. We need good doctors to stop prescribing bad medication. We need good officers to stop seeing addicts as criminals. We need good substance abuse facilities to take addicts and give them the care they deserve. And, we need the politicians to step up and make it easier for people to get help.
We are playing our part and doing everything we can to help as many people as we can. It’s your turn, if you know a struggling addict, don’t wait, call us at [maxbutton id=”1″ ] and out treatment specialist will get you into a program that is a perfect fit for your individual needs.