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Addiction Is a Brain Disease, Not Just a Behavioral Issue

Addiction has always been a serious issue in the United States but has become more prevalent in recent years as the opioid epidemic has claimed more lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has also, unfortunately, contributed to the rise in addictions, as the CDC has found that the drug overdose death count has increased in 2020 and emergency rooms are full of not just people with COVID-related symptoms, but those with liver damage as a result of increased alcohol use. Despite the fact that many people still believe addiction is merely a behavioral problem or a sign of moral failure, there is science to show that addiction is a brain disease.

Why does it matter that we begin looking at drug and alcohol addiction as a brain disease? When we view addiction for what it is—substance use that eventually leads to individuals no longer being able to control their impulses because of brain changes—we can challenge the stigma that surrounds addiction today.

Though researchers and professionals have long suspected addiction to be a chronic illness, it was confirmed in a 2016 report conducted by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D. The study found that though substance use begins with voluntary drinking or drug use, prolonged use can lead to tolerance, or the brain adapting through decreased dopamine production, so the individual needs more of it to achieve the same high as before. Long-term use of drugs or alcohol rewires the brain and becomes an addiction when the individual is no longer voluntarily using the drug.

Because addiction is a brain disease, it doesn’t simply go away when an individual stops using drugs or alcohol and goes to rehab. Brain changes can settle in for years even after a person has quit, which is why relapse is fairly common, and sometimes people even relapse multiple times throughout their lives.

Many people perceive individuals who are addicted to drugs as weak, as well as those who have relapsed. But if we can begin educating others about the impact drugs have on the brain, we can reduce negative perceptions of people who are actively suffering and lack control.

Can People with Addictions Quit Cold Turkey?

Some people assume they can quit using drugs or alcohol on their own, but addiction is a chronic disorder that doesn’t have a cure and can’t be rid of simply by ceasing to use drugs. It can also be dangerous to quit on your own because you may experience dangerous withdrawal symptoms such as seizures or slowed breathing, which can lead to death. Seeking help from a professional facility that can offer you detox support and other rehab services, like one of our Turning Point facilities, is the safest way you can begin your recovery.

Just because you have a brain disease doesn’t mean it can’t be treated successfully. Just as there are now studies showing the impact drugs have on the brain, there is also a lot of research that shows treating addiction through professional rehab services reduces the risk of relapse and improves your quality of life.

Today Is When Everything Changes

Asking for professional help may be one of the most difficult things you ever do if you’re struggling with an alcohol or drug addiction. But when you admit that you’ve lost control of your life and want your future to be different, everything can change. At Turning Point, Inc., our rehabilitation services are available to usher in this change. Since 1975, our New Jersey team has helped thousands of individuals dealing with a range of addictions, from heroin abuse to opiate addiction. From detox programs to outpatient treatments, we’re able to meet you where you’re at in your recovery journey. If you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction, we also have a family wellness program that family members can participate in to grow alongside those they care about.

Contact Turning Point, Inc. online or by phone at (973) 380-0905 if you’re ready to get help for your alcohol or drug addiction in New Jersey. We have multiple locations throughout the state for your convenience.

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