Psychologically, addiction is defined as a chronic brain disease that is composed of drug seeking and usage despite the adverse effects. They argue it’s a brain disease because drugs can interfere with the brain as it changes the normal functioning of the brain. The state in which a body can adopt the presence of a drug till the drug has no similar effect is known as tolerance.
On the other hand, commoners argue it is a condition in which an individual ingests a substance e.g. drug or gets involved in an activity e.g. sex which is exciting, but the prolonged use or act interferes with one’s normal routine. Users may even not be aware that their behavior has changed and is out of control causing harm to others and themselves.
A lot of addictive behavior is neither related to physical tolerance nor exposure to cues. Individuals compulsively engage in drug usage or even gambling due to being emotionally stressed about whether or not they have a physical addiction. The primary focus of the addiction is not what matters but rather an urge to take action in certain types of stress due to stress hormones (Corticotropin Releasing Factor, Adrenocorticotropic Hormone).
Thus, the treatment of these types of addiction requires one to understand fully how psychologically it works. It is important for one to recognize that addiction is not about searching for pleasure or anything to do with one’s moral behavior/character. Experts continue to debate and argue if addiction is a disease or a genuine mental illness, and lack of any resolution may preclude appropriate treatment. (Berger,1992)
A question of whether addiction is a mental or physical disorder always arises when one talks of dependency. The idea of one being able to separate between mental and physical addiction goes way back to the 17th-century French philosopher known as Rene Descartes.
By the philosophy of the mind, Descartes’s’s appropriate solution to the mind/ body problem is the argument that there is always the mind (soul) and the body (brain) and the two shall never meet or causally affect each other.
The solution is identified as Cartesian Dualism though some people consider it unsatisfactory in explanation, and some argue this concept has crippled the understanding of the nature of consciousness. Thus, differentiating between mental and physical becomes hard using the Cartesian dualism concept. To solve this issue of mental and physical disorder once and for all, the philosopher of the mind John R. Searle argues that consciousness can be identified as a feature of the single and physical organization of the brain.
Thus, when one identifies the physical occurrence between water molecules as wetness clearly shows that the mental and the physicals are one and the same thing. With this concept, one can define addiction as a defect in the ability of the brain to perceive pleasure which influences the conscious thus forming a pathological attachment.
The part of the brain which is significantly affected by addiction e.g. drug addiction is the center of the limbic brain. It is the part of the brain involved in handling anticipation and survival planning. Nevertheless, a slit defect in the limbic brain affects the addict’s perception of the substance survival salience which is the part that is unconscious (first part of addiction).
Afterward, the drug experience is sent to the frontal context where an emotional connection is experienced towards the drug based on the information received concerning the drug salience. It is identified as the second part of addiction where the drug takes a particular meaning in accordance to the addict and finally comes to love when they use the drug.
A lot of factors are considered when one considers addiction. A range of genetic and environmental factors vary across a population in developing the addiction. Approximately half of an individual’s opportunity for developing an addiction is identified from genetics while the other half is derived from the surrounding environment. Under the right circumstances, any person can become an addict. It only means that an individual with a little genetic loading, when exposed to high doses of a drug that is addictive for an extended period, is able to result in addiction.
The question if addiction is a disease or a choice has always risen. Over the previous decade, a concept has been seen to evolve from scientists with regards to addiction being a brain disease as it develops over a period due to voluntary behavior. Relevant mechanisms imply that the long-lasting changes in the brain are the ones responsible for distortions of both cognitive and emotional functioning. (Bourne, 1974)
It is as though the brain’s natural control circuit has been high-jacked. Thus, a lot of the biomedical community considers addiction as a brain disease. Like other illnesses, the disease of addiction is both organic and chronic. It targets the brain as it primary organ causing effects such as craving, and constant usage among other effects but it can be treated one day at a time.
Different people have different opinions with regard to addiction. Not all people agree that addiction is a disease. It is because some people argue that addiction is due to an individual’s choice to use the drug available. Though the early stage of usage may be due to choice once the brain has been affected, a person loses control of his/her behavior. A choice is not able to determine whether an element is a disease but rather, disease is what happens to an individual’s body due to choices incurred.
Other people argue that addiction is not a disease as people with addiction can get better even without undergoing treatment. Some people can curb severe addiction after experiencing a crisis. Others are able to achieve sobriety through self-help groups.
According to NIDA, addiction is a disease because the brain can change which is evident in a brain scan and these changes result also. They characterize this as compulsive drug seeking and use. There are ways in which this case the disease model falls. They include changes incurred in the brain; people can change their behavior through their minds have changed in response and finally, there exists no evidence of an addict’s compulsive. (Ephron, 2001)
A lot of reasons have been identified as to why addiction is not a disease. Some of the main reason includes
- A virus is involved in physiological malfunction and the proof that there exist brain changes shows no brain damage. These changes are able to show how the brains function not only when using a substance. It is because brain changes occur in everyday to day life, and the brain can be altered by the choice of thinking since the changes are not permanent.
- Evidence that is used to elaborate an addict’s behavior which is caused by brain change also develops the behavior change without medical intervention. Thus, the brain can change back to normal after voluntarily changing their behavior.
- Drug usage is not compulsive as they can differentiate between the activities happening around them. Research shows how the offers are given to an addict lead to choice making thus leading to substance abuse.
There always exists the origin of every concept encountered in the world. Thus, one is required to look at exactly what causes the concept of addiction. Firstly, the word addiction is derived from a Latin word meaning “enslaved by” or it can mean “bound to.” A person/individual who has encountered addiction clearly knows what it’s like to be addicted. Addiction can exert a strong influence on the brain which is manifested in three districts ways, i.e., craving for the substance of dependency, losing control over its excessive use, and finally continuing involvement despite the consequences incurred.
A lot of people for many years believed that only drugs and alcohol are responsible for causing addiction. However, recent research has proven otherwise as pleasurable activities such as gambling, sex, and even shopping are responsible for co-opting the brain
Many people don’t comprehend the reason why one can be addicted to substances such as drugs. It is commonly mistaken that individuals who are addicted mostly to drugs are immoral and lack moral principles. They think stopping the addiction is as easy as choosing to stop using the substance/ doing an activity.
In reality, addiction acts as a complex disease, and quitting takes more than words or real intention. Strong substances such as drugs affect the brain in different ways, and this makes it diffract to stop addiction even for those individuals prepared to do so. With experimental intervention, one can know how addiction affects the brain and with this, one can know how to treat successfully and help the addicts.
Various things happen to an individual mind when one is addicted to strong substances such as drugs. It is because these drugs contain chemicals that enter into the brain communication system and interfere with the normal progress of the nerves a cell that receives processes and sends information.
There exist two ways in which the disruption is incurred namely, through imitating the primitive brain’s chemical messengers and by overstimulation of the brain. Strong substances contain a similar structure to the brain’s messenger commonly known as neurotransmitters which are produced by the brain naturally. The universal similarity allows the material to affect the way messages are being sent to the brain.
Other substances such as cocaine cause the nerve cell to release an excessive amount of neurotransmitters thus preventing normal recycling of the brain chemicals which is required to shut the signal between the neurons. The final result is a brain awash in neurotransmitters which are present in the brain region that controls motivation, and emotion among other things.
Overstimulation of the system produces euphoric effects in response to this substance.
As an individual continues to use strong substances such as drugs, the brain finally adopts the extreme surge in dopamine thus producing less amount of dopamine or a reduced quantity of dopamine receptors. The final results become a less dopamine impact on the circuit, and this leads to an addict-ability to not only the substance but other events of life. The decrease caused the addicted person to keep using the substance/ doing the activity at hand in an attempt to bring back the functioning of the dopamine (Schaler, 2000).
Continued usage of a substance changes other chemical circuits and systems in the brain. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter which can influence the circuit and affects the ability to learn. When the concentration of glutamate is countered, the brain tries to restore to bring cognitive function. Brain images of individuals addicted to mostly drugs show different changes in the brain section that are core in judgment, decision making, and behavior control.
Addiction is a disease that can be prevented evidenced by the results from research bodies worldwide. These prevention programs involve the whole community as a whole, i.e., the family, schools, and media among others. Though many events and factors have affected and facilitated the addiction, once an individual chooses to stop the habit it becomes easy since their mind is set. Education and programs are critical ways of helping the youth and the public at large to understand the risks involved with addiction and how to prevent them.
Ephron G. Addiction. New York: St. Martin’s Minotaur; 2001.
Bourne P. Addiction. New York: Academic Press; 1974.
Berger G. Addiction. New York: F. Watts; 1992.
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Schaler J. Addiction Is A Choice. Chicago, Ill.: Open Court; 2000.
Ross D. What Is Addiction?. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press; 2010.