Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Understanding an Addiction Disorder

Is Addiction Disorder a Disease?

Definition of Addiction Disorder - 
Part I:

  • Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. 
  • Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.

Part II: Characteristics of Addiction Disorder -

  • Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. 
  • Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.

Part III: Other Factors
Determinates that can contribute to the appearance of addiction, leading to its characteristic bio-psycho-socio-spiritual manifestations, include:

  • The presence of an underlying biological deficit in the function of reward circuits, such that drugs and behaviors which enhance reward function are preferred and sought as reinforcers.
  • The repeated engagement in drug use or other addictive behaviors, causing neuroadaptation in motivational circuitry leading to impaired control over further drug use or engagement in addictive behaviors;
  • Cognitive and affective distortions, which impair perceptions and compromise the ability to deal with feelings, resulting in significant self-deception;
  • Disruption of healthy social supports and problems in interpersonal relationships which impact the development or impact of resiliencies;
  • Exposure to trauma or stressors that overwhelm an individual’s coping abilities;
  • Distortion in meaning, purpose and values that guide attitudes, thinking and behavior;
  • Distortions in a person’s connection with self, with others and with the transcendent (referred to as God by many, the Higher Power by 12-steps groups, or higher consciousness by others); 
  • The presence of co-occurring psychiatric disorders in persons who engage in substance use or other addictive behaviors. 
(Reference: http://www.asam.org/for-the-public/definition-of-addiction)

Addiction disorder is a complex disorder / disease which is located in the brains primary reward system causing a dysfuction or neurological deficit in the circuitry of the response system to stimuli. 

Addiction disorder / disease is chronic and life-long. Addiction Disorder is only be treated by abstaining from alcohol, drugs or the different type of addiction a person is living with.  
The brain has neurologically adapted in the motivational circuitry leading to impaired control over further drug use or engagement in addictive behaviors.  

The human brain, will chemically and physically change to adapt to substances ingested and become dependent on those substances to function. The chemicals / substances attach to cells that are delivered to the brain and and other parts of the body. As it accepts and processes these substances, chemical changes are exhibited immediately. After time, no specific length of time has been determined, the physical pathways begin to adapt to registering and using the substances as part of its processing mechanism (addiction). Since brains are designed to accept all cells, with or without substances attached to them, the cells can not detect any abnormalities of the structure of the cell. 

Personal Experience and Success:
In my personal experience in living with an addiction disorder, bipolar, ADD and anxiety, in order for me to be successful in life with a disorder, I had to receive the appropriate type of treatment. There is a difference between living with a disorder and suffering from a disorder.

These types of disorders are hidden within the person and can't be effectively identified without support / evaluation from professionals.  I am a professional educator and a coach. People do not know that I am a recovering alcoholic and have bipolar / ADD unless I tell them.  They may see not drink at social events or have bipolar episodes, but aren't able to determine if I am not drinking at happy hour because I have to take my daughter to cheer later that night or that I have high blood pressure.  I have used the high blood pressure excuse on several occasions and it has worked every time.  Should I be ashamed of myself for not sticking to my beliefs and telling the person, I sustain from alcohol because I am a recovering alcoholic? I believe that this is a question only I can answer or the alcoholic / drug addict that is facing this internal question.  

Life is about choices, situation / environmental response, responding to internal thoughts and using tools or strategies to help the person be successful.  Success may be measured by remaining sober for one day or twenty years. Only you can judge your personal, internal success based on how you feel and your achievements.  In regards to recovery and sobriety, you are the 'judge and the jury'. Having a support group is vitally important though. Whether it is an AA Group, Family, Friends, it is critical to have those close to you recognize your personal achievements, successes, hold you accountable, listen and watch your journey of recovery. 

Remember, you are the one that walks a day in your own shoes as an active or recovering alcoholic or drug addict.  Others may be able to empathize with you as being another recovering alcoholic / drug addict, but they can't listen to your your racing thoughts or experience your sensory responses to smells, touches, environments that trigger unexpected emotional responses.  

Stay in active recovery for yourself or if you are not there yet, its okay, because every alcoholic and drug addict has been there. Every last one of us have said to ourselves and/or someone else that we can control our use and don't need professional help. All of us have been there and that's actually a step in the right direction that you are thinking those thoughts. 

Open your mind to the fact that you may need help and know there are people out there to help you in recovery. Call a treatment center, look up recovery twitter accounts and inform yourself of the recovery community.  You are not alone. I have been in two treatment centers and have met CEO's of fortune 500 companies, actors, musicians, teachers, royalty from other countries, Dad's, Brother's, Sister's, Mother's, Daughters, etc. There is no discrimination of this disease. Making a call or inquiring on the internet, does not lock you into having to go or take action. It is anonymous and by federal law, your name or personal information can't be disclosed to anyone, even a spouse.

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