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Addiction a Brain Disease? But How?


Posted on September 12, 2012 by Lisa Frederiksen.

Addiction a brain disease? Click HERE for full story.

No way,” or some variation thereof, is the typical reaction, I hear. Followed by something along the lines of, “Cancer is a disease. All they have to do is put down the bottle [or stop using the drug]!”

How is Addiction a Brain Disease?

By its simplest definition, a disease is something that changes cells in a negative way. Addiction changes cells in the brain.  It starts with substance abuse – meaning to use more of a drug (which includes alcohol, prescription or illegal drugs) than is prescribed or considered “low-risk” use. (See #1 below.)

All substances of abuse reach the brain through the bloodstream. Drugs contain chemicals that tap into the brain’s communication system and disrupt the way nerve cells normally send, receive, and process information. There are at least two ways that drugs cause this disruption: (1) by imitating the brain’s natural chemical messengers and (2) by over-stimulating the “reward circuit” of the brain.

When substances are abused, they actually change the structure of our brain cells and the way the brain functions . When the abuse crosses the line to addiction, it becomes a chronic, relapsing disease – like diabetes, asthma or heart disease. In the case of addiction, it happens to change cells in the brain, which is what makes it a brain disease.

Like the other diseases mentioned, addiction can be successfully managed (treated). A person with addiction can live a wonderful, productive, enjoyable life when they treat their disease.



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