Addiction has been considered a disease by medical science rather than a character flaw for decades. In spite of that belief, it is only recently that we have been seeing real studies that back up this claim, providing us with a scientific basis for the brain-addiction connection.
We can start to make real changes in the way we treat addiction by better understanding how neuropathology impacts the greater issues of lacking impulse control, behavioral control, and lifestyle decisions. By looking at the bigger picture we can start to find those correlations and treat them.
Addiction as a Character Flaw
Unfortunately, for the majority of human history, addiction has been considered a dirty habit and not a disease. Our ancestors, even our recent ancestors, believed that someone who struggled with alcohol or drug addiction was simply less morally righteous and somehow flawed on an ethical level.
The ever increasing percentage of addicts in our society shows the damage that a shame approach can have on treating the problem.
Addiction Is A Legitimate Disease
There are four sources recognized by medical science:
While any one of those elements will be unlikely to form an addiction, a combination of factors greatly increases the risk. After a certain point, the problem becomes one that the addict has no control over. Relapse, even after years of sobriety, is a result of the above factors, not one related to the willpower of the addict.
As evidence continues to support this idea, more government agencies and treatment centers are taking notice and adopting the principle.
The Risk To Teens
Unfortunately, studies have shown that the likelihood of addiction is greater in those with developing brains. That means teens are especially susceptible to contributing factors that will lead to addiction later on. Preventative measures are crucial during the adolescent years to curb the threat of addiction in their adult lives.
What To Do When Prevention Falls Flat
Prevention isn’t always effective, which is when addiction treatment itself becomes necessary. There are many medical interventions available that treat addicts on a neurobiological and biological level, rather than relying entirely on environmental and therapy based cures.
Acamprosate and Naltrexone are two examples of these treatments. They work by inhibiting the brain’s ability to respond to certain substances, and helps to eliminate cravings. Over time the treatments available will hopefully improve further, and we can end this epidemic once and for all.