Inside The Brain of an Addict

A 2012 National Survey on Drug use and Health reported that 23.9 Americans over 11 years old had used recreational drugs during the prior year.
Treatment options are plentiful, and all work to enhance the life of the person who’s been suffering.

For many years, there was a popular idea that addiction was an emotional failing, and could be overcome with the proper application of will power.  However, in the past decade, research into the detailed impacts of alcohol, cocaine and other drugs on the brain itself have led to a different understanding of addiction.  With the knowledge we have gained about how various chemicals impact the brain on a cellular level, we are now able to empirically say that addiction is a chronic brain disease.

When a person has a disease like diabetes, there is no social shame in seeking treatment.  In fact, if a diabetic did not seek out treatment, they could create dangerous situations for those around them, perhaps passing out while driving or experiencing low blood sugar at an important event.  There is no social stigma to seeking treatment for diabetes.  However, in the current culture, we are just turning the corner to seeing addiction as a brain disease.  There still exists a fair bit of stigma around mental health services.  Taking this pressure into account along with the detrimental, frightening and uncontrolled thoughts of the addict, it’s no wonder that so much suffering must take place before an addict reaches a recovery point.

The brain is particularly sensitive at times.  When a person is going through key developmental phases, the brain is flexing to accommodate faster activity, learning, and adaptation.  Adolescence is a developmental stage that we know leaves an opening for addiction to arise.  Because of the chemicals commonly circulating in the brain at that time, addiction to alcohol or drugs can be very easy.  Fortunately, because the brain is young and able to flex, it is able to recover quickly, but that resilience is easiest to harness when treatment is received early, and a long term recovery plan is followed.

A 2012 National Survey on Drug use and Health reported that 23.9 Americans over 11 years old had used recreational drugs during the prior year.  Seeking help for anyone suffering from addiction is important, but the younger the patient is, the more critical it is that treatment can be started immediately.  When families are evaluating help and intervention for adolescents and young adults, it’s often hard to see past the devastation that addiction brings.  The potential of the young person doesn’t disappear, however, it is merely cloaked underneath an illness, which is treatable and can be overcome.


Distributed by Client Initiative

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