ARTICLE 2: Drug addiction is a complex illness, starting as abuse and ending in addiction and destruction of body systems. It is characterized by intense and, at times, uncontrollable drug craving, along with compulsive drug seeking and use that persists even in the face of devastating consequences.
Many people do not realize that addiction is a brain disease. While the path to drug addiction begins with the act of taking drugs, over time a person’s ability to choose not to do so becomes compromised, and seeking and consuming the drug becomes compulsive. This behavior results largely from the effects of prolonged drug exposure on brain functioning. Addiction affects multiple brain circuits, including those involved in reward and motivation, learning and memory, and inhibitory control over behavior. Some individuals are more vulnerable than others to becoming addicted, depending on genetic makeup, age of exposure to drugs, other environmental influences, and the interplay of all these factors.
Addiction is often more than just compulsive drug taking – it can also produce far-reaching consequences. Fore example, drug abuse and addictions can increase a person’s risk for a variety of other mental and physical illnesses related to a drug-abusing lifestyle or the toxic effects of the drugs themselves. Additionally, a wide range of dysfunctional behaviors can result from drug abuse and interfere with normal functioning in the family, the workplace, and the broader community.
Because drug abuse and addiction have so many dimensions and disrupt so many aspects of an individual’s life, treatment is not simple. Effective treatment programs typically incorporate many components, each directed to a particular aspect of the illness and its consequences. Addiction treatment must help the individual stop using drugs, maintain a drug-free lifestyle, and achieve productive functioning in the family, at work, and in society. Because addiction is a disease, people cannot simply stop using drugs for a few days and be cured. Most patients require long-term or repeated episodes of care to achieve the ultimate goal of sustained abstinence and recovery of their lives.
In summary, addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior. Drugs of abuse alter the brain’s structure and function, resulting in changes that persist long after drug use has ceased. This may explain why drug abusers are at risk for relapse even after long periods of abstinence and despite the potentially devastating consequences.
No single treatment is appropriate for everyone. Matching treatment settings, interventions, and services to an individual’s particular problems and needs is critical to his or her ultimate success in returning to productive functioning in the family, workplace, and society.
Treatment needs to be readily available. Because drug-addicted individuals may be uncertain about entering treatment, taking advantage of available services the moment people are ready for treatment is critical. Potential patients can be lost if treatment is not immediately available or readily accessible. As with other chronic diseases, the earlier treatment is offered in the disease process, the greater the likelihood of positive out-comes.
Southeast Georgia Treatment Center, opening on November 30, 2009 in Eastman, is ready to assist in providing a holistic approach to treating this illness by offering medical care, counseling and encouragement to those individuals who are ready for a new day in their lives.