The Neurological Nature of Addiction & Alcoholism
Addiction is a disease that is unlike any other. While most diseases are physical, mental or emotional in nature, addiction and alcoholism affect every aspect of the afflicted individual’s life, resulting in severe, life-altering consequences. However, few people realize how powerful the disease of addiction really is. They might think that addiction is simply a matter of weak willpower, but this is an extremely outdated perspective on addiction. Today, science has conclusively proven that addiction is a serious disease as evidenced by numerous factors including the development of neurological pathways whose sole purpose is to facilitate the process of addiction or alcoholism. This is crucial to understand, because once these mesolimbic pathways have been established, they are permanent.
Addiction can happen to anyone. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, taxi drivers, white collar workers and laborers can become addicted to a substance under the right circumstances. The reason for this is that the use of drugs or alcohol stimulates the pleasure center of the brain by mimicking natural chemicals that the brain would normally produce and release into the blood stream. Because drugs produce similar chemicals, the neurons responsible for normal brain functions in this area become inhibited and no longer perform as they once did. And because the stimulation of the pleasure center of the brain causes a distinct “high” or sense of euphoria, people who use drugs for this purpose are often driven to seek that same feeling of euphoria again and again.
However, the body will rapidly develop tolerance to a substance in an effort to mitigate its effects. The problem with this is that tolerance causes a drug abuser to use more of the substance in order to achieve the same effects. Meanwhile, neurons in the brain are still inhibited, and a mesolimbic pathway begins to develop. This neurological pathway “services” the addictive behavior and effects thereof and becomes more permanently embedded in the brain with continued use. Once a person has reached the stage of physical dependency, these pathways become permanent.
Neurological pathways that once serviced addiction processes pose a significant threat of relapse because these pathways exist solely for that purpose and will cause sometimes uncontrollable urges to feed the addiction. These pathways cause most symptoms related to PAWS or Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome and may contribute significantly to denial issues. Additionally, the more times a person relapses and withdraws, the more powerful the neurological pathways become, making it progressively more difficult for a person suffering from addiction to get clean and stay clean.
Because addiction is a neurological disease, it is considered a healthcare issue and therefore there are professional, modern drug addiction treatment and alcohol rehab centers readily available to help. However, education on the real nature of this disease is critical in order to remove the taboo and stigmatism related to addiction and alcoholism. In fact, because evidence has shown that most addicts are probably genetically predisposed to addiction, this disease should be treated like any other: with progressive treatment modalities, compassion, respect and understanding.
Call us to find out more information. Our drug rehab center in Florida is one of the most successful in the country, and we can help you no matter where you are. Pick up the phone now- we’re here 24 hours per day to give you the guidance you need to break free from addiction and triumph over this neurological disease.