Addictions alter the brain in lasting ways that make it difficult to break away from substance use. Left untreated and disengaged in on-going recovery activities, the progressive nature of addiction can result in disability and premature death. Here are five reasons that as a society we should treat addiction as a disease rather than a mere personal problem.
1. Addiction Matters In The Brain
In the earliest stages of the process of addiction, changes begin to occur in the parts of the brain that govern involuntary responses. The brain provides a reward system regulated by various chemical reactions that induce either euphoric or dysphoric responses. Substances alone are rarely the cause of addiction but are intricately entwined in a complex relationship with the personality who hosts it and the people and environment in which the person lives. These rewards, pleasant and not, are in response not only to a substance but also external cues and triggers in the outer environment. The weight of the chemical nature of addiction must be addressed in order to successfully treat the abuse of substances.
2. The Success of Professional Help in Recovery
Self-detoxification is a dangerous approach to rehabilitation. Vital signs can fluctuate wildly during withdrawal from dangerous substances and can be fatal if not regulated at a safe pace. Addiction of a substance or behavior does not act alone. Health professionals conduct comprehensive assessments to address possible underlying psychological causes or aggravations of the addiction. A team of qualified professionals who specialize in addiction recovery can give an addict a concrete plan of treatment and recovery beyond detoxification rescue by addressing the psychological factors as well. For Ryan Salter, President and CEO of Ascend Recovery, rehabilitation is more than just escaping addiction, but rather extending healing beyond residential treatment.
3. Health-Based Rather Than Punitive Approaches Ease The Strain on Our Incarceration System
Other cultures, like Portugal, have made strides in an overall decline in drug use by decriminalizing personal drug possession. More citizens seek treatment and rates of infections from shared needles is down. Fewer inmates return to prison. Even a criminal in recovery without parole can offer support to other inmates battling the disease. By shifting the focus from incarceration to treatment, we let these people out from the shadows and better address the mental, physical and structural factors that contribute to addiction. In this way, we can change how we view addiction, and even bring people back to functioning levels rather than isolate and incarcerate them.
4. Reduce Losses In The Workplace
Addictions cause significant loss in workplace productivity, turnover, theft and related healthcare costs, such as filing increased worker’s compensation claims. Firing long-term employees may not be the only solution, as demonstrated in a 2013 episode of Undercover Boss. Employers who want more information can call the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention’s Workplace Helpline at 1-800-843-4971.
5. Increase Awareness of The Language of Stigma
Social stigmas rooted in ignorance about the causes and treatment of addiction lead to higher rates of preventable, premature death by suicide in some societies. The last thing an addicted personality wants to hear is, “You can psych yourself out of it,” “He’s crazy,” “It will bring shame to the family,” or “She must be bi-polar.”By challenging these cultural perspectives, we can create a more accepting and healthy society that better understands the complex nature of addiction. In this way, we can potentially bring people out of addiction and back into the fold of functioning society.
An unambiguous and health-based rather than punitive approach to treatment is the best way to insulate a user and our communities against the costs of untreated addiction.