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Addiction & Alcoholism: A Disease that Attacks Body, Mind and Spirit

Addiction and alcoholism are unique and especially devastating diseases because they affect the body, the mind and the spirit.  While other diseases are generally either purely mental or purely physical in nature, addiction is both at once and more, and therefore requires very specific and intense types of addiction treatment in order to save the life of the sufferer.  Understanding how this disease can affect so many different aspects of a person’s life is critical in order to foster an environment in which it is easy to get help for drug addiction or alcoholism.

Addiction is a Physiological Disease

For the sake of this article we will simply refer to addiction, as alcoholism is in reality just another type of addiction.  Regardless of what type of substance a person becomes addicted to, there is a physiological process that takes place that actually makes changes to the body’s Central Nervous System or CNS.  As a person uses a substance, the body must make changes to the CNS in order to cope with the drug or alcohol being introduced.  This coping mechanism leads to physical tolerance over time.  Tolerance is when more and more of the substance is required in order to achieve the same effect.

Once tolerance has set in, continued use will almost certainly lead to physical addiction.  This is where the body actually depends upon the drug to maintain normalcy.  During tolerance stages and during active addiction, there can be severe physical consequences such as pulmonary issues, heart diseases and liver problems, seizures, collapsed veins, damaged internal organs and structures, and less grave problems such as vomiting, insomnia and lack of coordination.

Addiction is a Psychological Disease

By its very nature, addiction is a self-perpetuating disease.  When addicted to drugs or alcohol, a person cannot make decisions correctly, lacks control over emotions and behavior and makes extremely poor or even dangerous decisions in order to obtain more of the drug.  This problem is exacerbated by the fact that addiction makes anxious, insecure or aggressive people experience significantly pronounced symptoms of these conditions.

The psychological nature of addiction urges the addict to continue using despite severe consequences such as the loss of a family or career, or possible trouble with authorities.  Addiction tells the addict that they don’t have a problem at all – as long as there is a steady supply of the drug available.  And if that supply is suddenly no longer available, addiction will erode a person’s judgment to the point that they will engage in dangerous behavior in order to acquire more of the substance.

Addiction is a Spiritual Disease

When a disease like addiction affects both mind and body, the overall effect of these combined serves to damage the human spirit.  When this occurs, conditions such as depression or psychoses can become extremely dangerous.  The dismal spiritual nature of addiction can lead someone to simply give up hope.  This could be the most perilous part of addiction, because when someone gives up hope it is very difficult to help them find it once again.

If you or someone you love is suffering with these multiple aspects of addiction, you should know that help is readily available- all you have to do is pick up the phone for a no-obligation, confidential conversation.  Addiction treatment can be completely arranged for you, or you can just talk and ask questions.

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More