A scientific understanding of addiction

Understanding addictions

Addiction is defined as being something that brings uncontrollable urges and cravings which a person cannot deny even when faced with the facts of the negative aspect that their addiction brings them. However scientists are now saying that addiction is a disorder of the brain brought on by the changes that persistent drug use has on the brain structure and its function and these changes are felt for a long time after the person has stopped using drugs.

However it seems that some people can become addicted more easily to drugs than others and that not everyone does become addicted to them therefore it is thought that genetics may play a part in the susceptibility to addiction.

Understanding addiction as a brain disease

Most people think that addiction to drugs is nothing more than a total lack of will power on the person’s behalf but research has shown that this is not entirely true. The person with an addiction however isn’t totally blameless and must accept responsibility for their behaviour, but it can help to explain why an addict can’t quit their addiction on their own.

When drugs are used persistently over a long period of time and persistent changes are being made to the structure of the brain then it can be just like a flipping a switch in the brain from normal to addict.

How addiction can be treated

Research has shown that the best way to treat a person with an addiction is to treat the individual as a whole using a combination of medications, therapies, social services and rehabilitation. A surprising find was that the compliance of the person with the addiction wasn’t necessary for treatment to be successful.

In fact studies have suggested that by increasing the pressure on a person with addiction, whether this pressure comes from the legal system, friends or relatives, to stay with a program and receive treatment this will greatly increase the chances of recovery from addiction.

How you can help someone with an addiction

It is important that we remember that while the person with the addiction had the choice of taking drugs or not in the first place, they didn’t choose to become an addict. The brain of the addicted person is by now not functioning properly and all control of the amount of drug they now need to take is no longer under their control.

Try to help them by finding a program which will treat the person as a whole, such programmes will tackle their addiction to the drug, any behavioural issues they have, any mental illness and teach them life skills. If the person doesn’t want your help and refuses it then remember that treatment doesn’t necessarily have to be voluntary to work, if all else fails then consider involving the justice system.

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