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Addiction as a disease is a widely accepted method of approaching treatment for drug addiction and alcoholism. Nevertheless, there are still significant numbers of people – including those in the healthcare fields – that aren’t convinced. These people may see addiction as a matter of weak will power or poor moral values. Because of this view, these people believe that resources and energy is better used on people who have no free choice in their condition, such as cancer patients or those with HIV or AIDS. However, the fact of the matter is that addiction is a progressive, clinical and potentially fatal disease that, without treatment can lead to severe consequences. It has remission rates and treatment success rates similar to that of other diseases and has a host of symptoms that are the same regardless of the type of substance used. Understanding that addiction is a disease is essential to create programs that better address this unfortunately human condition.,Addition starts with tolerance. When a person uses any drug – even simple painkillers prescribed after a surgery, the body rapidly develops a tolerance to the drug in order to mitigate its effect. This is similar to the way people can develop tolerances to certain poisons or other harmful substances. Once this tolerance develops with drugs of addiction such as prescription drugs, cocaine, meth and heroin, the user will require more and more of the substance to achieve the same desired effect, i.e.: to get high. Consequently, people who use drugs regularly will exponentially use more and more of them. This leads to a state of dependence.,Dependence occurs because the body has become accustomed to the drug or alcohol being present. In effect, the CNS or central nervous system will make changes to “accommodate” the substance and thereby normalize the body while the drug is in the system. This leads to a state where the person cannot feel or act normal without being high on the drug.,As if physical dependence and tolerance weren’t problem enough, drugs of abuse – including alcohol – release dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is the “feel good” substance responsible for the euphoric high users feel when they do drugs. Anything that stimulates dopamine product creates powerful neurological associations in the brain that compel a person to recreate that feeling again and again. Each time this process occurs, a neurological pathway is built in the brain in order to service it. These pathways are permanent in the brain and serve only one purpose: powerful addictive behavior.,Once these neurological pathways have developed, true addiction sets in and in most cases a person will be unable to stop using on their own. This exposes them to significant risks including overdose, suicide, homicide and severe physical complications like heart attacks, seizures and pulmonary distress. This is the real state of addiction, and it is very much a clinical disease – not a matter of will power. If these things are happening to you or someone you love, use the links below to get help right now.

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