Serious scientific exploration about addiction began decades ago; since the development of brain scans, new data has informed addiction treatment. Improved protocols for treating addiction have emerged. The shifts are based upon this new understanding of brain functioning and visual evidence of drug influence on brain function. To understand the connection between addiction and brain function, it is best to explore the most recent definition developed by the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
“Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.”
There are several factors that aid in a person’s shift toward addictive behavior. These factors include genetic, psycho-social and environmental influences. These factors are necessary to understand how a person becomes addicted.
In simpler terms, addiction is the seeking of a substance or behavior that is ongoing despite the negative consequences. This simple definition can include substance abuse (drug and/or alcoholism), addictive behaviors such as gambling, sex, pornography, shopping, as well as emotional and psychological addictions such as raging, workaholism, and eating disorders. The signs and symptoms of addiction are always clear. Addiction is not subtle; the impact of addiction is profound both on the individual suffering from addiction as well as those who are in the person’s sphere of relationships.
Addictive behavior includes:
- Loss of control
- Awareness of and continued use despite negative consequences
Everyone who suffers from addiction has also suffered from changes in brain function. The brain changes in function related to reward, memory, and motivation bring about physical dependence, tolerance, and withdrawal.
At times, the underlying cause for a substance abuse disorder or addiction can be directly linked to a mental health disorder such as Depression, PTSD, or Anxiety. Other times, the use of substances and addictive behaviors can bring the onset of a mental health disorder. The interconnectedness of mental health disorders and addiction must be addressed, or the state of both the mental health disorder and the addiction will worsen. In fact, according to the Government’s Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment, 6 out 10 people with an addiction (legal or illegal) also suffer from a mental health disorder.
Breaking Through Addiction: The Choice to Get Addiction Treatment
Addiction in any form is a serious matter, sometimes, breaking the addiction means life or death. The complexities of addiction preclude a simple renunciation of the habit. It is more than will power. The good news—addiction is treatable, but it takes a desire to get better and a sincere effort to do the necessary work.
Best practices are guidelines that Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, the Joint Commission and the American Society of Addiction Medicine have released. Addiction treatment protocols were developed and studied utilizing the scientific data. These protocols comprise what today are the principals for successful treatment programs.
The complexity of a person’s life: his or her childhood, education, work history, physical condition, emotional and psychological state, trauma history, criminal history and substance abuse history, as well as the present state of substance abuse must be obtained. Simultaneously, a thorough medically supervised detox conducted so that a workable treatment plan can be developed and implemented. This multidisciplinary approach to addiction treatment requires a variety of therapies to uncover the real life issues.Trained addiction physicians, therapists, clinicians, and other supporting staff, work as a team addressing an individual’s addiction, mental health issues and other contributing problems.