There are many debates about the question, “is addiction a disease?” and new science has an answer for this. A disease is any illness that affects a specific organ and has clear symptoms that are diagnosable by a medical professional. The disease of addiction meets this exact criterion, and it’s important to understand the importance. Without understanding that addiction is a disease, there will continue to be a stigma about addiction.
Why it’s Important to Answer “Is Addiction a Disease?”
Simply put, the answer to “Is addiction a disease?” is yes. Many users are incarcerated for their addiction because of the War on Drugs. Rather than treating people for their addiction, they are punished for it. We wouldn’t punish people for having cancer, diabetes or hypertension, so how is an addiction any different?
Understanding the Disease Model of Addiction
The brain is a much more complex organ than many people give it credit for because it has many functions that go unnoticed. Aside from our thinking prefrontal cortex, there are parts of the brain that act via automatic response. A great example is how we breathe because you don’t have to think about breathing in order to do it. There are other parts of the brain responsible for survival that is attributed to the disease of addiction.
The limbic system of the brain has separate parts, and each one is greatly responsible for our everyday survival instincts. Eating gives us a sense of pleasure when we’re hungry, and the limbic system stores that as a memory. We need this type of context-dependent learning system so we know to eat when we’re hungry or drink when we’re thirsty. The part of the brain that’s not functioning properly with addiction is the prefrontal cortex, which helps us make good decisions.
The Prefrontal Cortex
Addiction therapy helps repair and strengthen the prefrontal cortex because it’s not working properly in addiction. This part of the brain tells us when we need to stop doing a pleasurable act due to the potential consequences. This part of the brain that tells us to stop eating when we’re full because we can get sick. Not only that, but the prefrontal cortex is responsible for many other aspects of our lives such as:
- Impulse control
- Emotional regulation
Understanding how this part of the brain works makes much more sense as to why people with an addiction do what they do. Without the ability to regulate emotions or have proper empathy, they’re more likely to hurt loved ones. The lack of self-awareness explains why many people with addiction are in denial about the severity of the problem. Without impulse control, triggers lead to uncontrollable drug use. If you or a loved one needs help, call San Antonio Recovery Center today at 866-957-7885 to find out more about our addiction rehab programs.