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Is Addiction Really a Disease? – Taking a Look at the Facts

Tell someone you have a condition like diabetes, and they will almost certainly respond with concern and compassion. But tell someone you’re struggling with addiction, and the reaction may be much, much different.

Although society has progressed, many misperceptions remain when it comes to mental illness—especially addiction.

Here’s a look at the facts surrounds addiction and an examination of whether it constitutes a disease or not. Let’s dive in.

What Is Addiction?

It may involve the use of a substance, or it may mean a particular behavior. Either way, addiction “rewards” a person for the repeated use of a substance or behavior. Even when the consequences are demonstrably harmful, the addicted person feels the incentive to indulge.

A few of the many addictive substances and behavior are:

  • Drugs (legal and/or illegal)
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Sex
  • Pornography
  • Gambling
  • Disordered eating
  • Internet gaming/Internet usage
  • Exercising
  • Shopping
  • Pain (e.g., cutting)
  • Stealing
  • Setting fires

Addiction can strike across all genders, classes, ethnicities, and ages.

Is Addiction Like a Disease?

The American Society of Addiction Medicine calls addiction “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry.” In plain English, this is not an issue of willpower or morality.

Addiction is a brain disease, a compulsive disorder. Of course, there is a wide range of mental activity going on during craving, but here are some sample breakdowns:

  • A person may feel helpless or powerless for several reasons. The discomfort of these feelings leads us to seek solutions. Addictive behavior gives us a false perception of empowerment. It provides us with a sense of regaining control.
  • In other instances, helplessness produces anger. Once again, this stems from a feeling of not being in control. Rage is a powerful catalyst for destructive behavior. Addiction is nothing if not destructive behavior; thus, it gives us that false feeling of empowerment.
  • You feel helpless. You feel anger about feeling helpless. But, in a state of powerlessness, you choose displacement. Rather than confronting someone or something that has wounded you, you reverse your powerlessness by choosing an addictive behavior. Your pain appears to be (temporarily) soothed, but, of course, the source remains. This pattern keeps the cycle going and deepening.

Is Addiction Really a Disease?

Yes. According to the American Medical Association, it is caused by a combination of factors:

  • Behavioral
  • Environmental
  • Biological (this includes the significant risk factor of genetics)

A few factors to consider include:

  1. Addiction is not a choice. Yes, of course, individuals can choose whether or not to partake in a substance or activity. However, people cannot decide how their body and mind respond to any substance or activity.
  2. People with an addiction are responsible for seeking treatment and maintaining recovery. But, they need empathy and understanding. Addiction is powerful, and a support system is crucial.
  3. It’s not fair to discount addiction as a disease because it involves choice. For example, a person who chooses to be sedentary and/or follow an unhealthy diet is not wanting to have heart disease. Actions have consequences, but that does not preclude the existence of a disease.
  4. As touched on above, addiction rewires the brain—specifically the reward system. This rewiring influences a brain’s ability to:
  • Make decisions
  • Remember
  • Learn
  • Control behavior

Everyone Deserves to Heal

The good news is that help is available regardless of how any individual perceives addiction. A full assessment is essential early on.

Also, addiction can trigger other conditions from anxiety and depression to hepatitis C and sexually transmitted diseases. Treatment will take an integrated form and be provided with dignity and respect.

Whether you are the person with an addiction problem, or it is someone you love, treatment begins with acceptance and a sincere request for help. Contacting a trained and experienced counselor is an excellent first step.

Please reach out to us today or visit my page on addiction recovery to learn more about how I can help.

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Uncategorized

Your Addiction: 5 Important Reasons Why You Should Get Help Now

It’s easy to ignore things that are hard or don’t always feel good. We all procrastinate or avoid from time to time.  And when you’re struggling with addiction, it’s really easy to ignore all the reasons why you need to get help now.

The addiction takes center-stage and demands all of your attention. All your focus on is getting your next drink, your next fix – so that you feel “normal” or “better.”

But the truth is; you will never truly feel better.

Not in the midst of the drinking/using and all the chaos that comes with it. It doesn’t matter how convincing you are – this isn’t about will power. There is a reason why addiction is called a “brain disease”.

And eventually, it will always take more drugs or alcohol to get even close to the same effect you had the first time you used.

There is an end point to this terminal disease. And it isn’t pleasant or happy or freeing. So don’t succumb to it – stand up and get help.

It may be hard to believe – but you CAN do this and there are a lot of folks out there who can help.

If you need some important reasons why you should get help for your addiction—now – then here you go…

1. Improving Your Health

The first important reason to consider is your health. Addiction only makes your health worse, not better.

If you are young, you may not have noticed much of a difference yet. But, as time goes by, you will see and feel dramatic changes happening to your body.

For example:

  • Your liver starts having a harder time processing the alcohol and can’t do its job properly to the point where you experience liver failure
  • You become more vulnerable to a heart attack or stroke
  • Your skin tone and quality changes
  • Your lung capacity diminishes
  • You have a greater possibility of contracting HIV/AIDS due to sharing intravenous needles
  • Your life expectancy is shorter

Clearly, addiction is not good for your health.

2. Strengthening Your Relationships

Another reason to get help is the relationships that you hold most dear. Whether it’s your partner, children, parents, or friends, addiction causes tremendous hurt and pain to the people you love.

You may have said or done things that you later regret and, thus, strained these relationships to the breaking point.

What’s happened in the past is done. However, by getting help, you have the power to strengthen those relationships and keep or bring those people close to you.

3. Saving Your Career

Did you spend years and thousands of dollars getting to where you are in your career? What would you do if you lost your job?

Addiction takes a toll on your work as well. At first, it’s occasionally showing up a little late or missing a project deadline. A reprimand or even a poor performance review doesn’t help. In fact, they may spur you forward in your addiction. Then, it’s more consistent absences or a blow-up at the office. Eventually, your employer will decide that it’s better to let you go.

If this scenario happens a few times, it can be damaging to your career. And once unemployed, you most likely resort to other means of feeding your addition and getting the substances you crave.

4. Bringing Joy Back Into Your Life

Remember a time when you felt happy and joyful? Was it while pursuing a hobby or sport that you like?

When struggling with addiction, it’s hard to feel happy at all. In fact, many also develop depression alongside their addiction.

There are several reasons why this occurs:

  • You are more isolated from those you care about
  • Hobbies, sports, and other recreational activities no longer have the same appeal
  • Your focus is now on getting more drugs
  • Your health and physical appearance have declined

It’s easy to focus on the obvious things that you lose with addiction. However, joy and happiness are just as important as your health, relationships, or even your job. Don’t let it slip through your fingers.

5. Having Peace of Mind

Finally, your peace of mind is certainly a reason why you should get help now for addiction. You probably feel sad, angry, and anxious with addiction.

Although when under the influence, you may experience a heightened state of pleasure—it doesn’t last. Most of the time you are in a more miserable state of mind. You may even recognize that you are miserable and need to get better.

Is that how you want to live your life?

Ultimately, you can list all of the reasons in the world why you should get help – thinking about it is easy. Talking is easy too. But until you’re willing to act – to actually get the help, real relief and real change simple will not follow. So, whether your personal motivation comes from the inside or outside—find your reason to change and take action!

Please, contact me to start your addiction recovery. Or, visit here to learn more about how I can help you.

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Alcohol

Alcohol Addiction Counseling

Alcohol Addiction Counseling

Alcohol has been around since ancient times and has consistently been an accepted part of almost every culture since. Alcohol has a routine and casual presence in society from weddings, to funerals, after work “happy hour” gathers, family vacations and even everyday meals. Despite it’s commonplace in our culture, there is nothing common, simple or easy about alcohol addiction.

For many of us, consumption will likely never result in addiction. For even more us, alcoholism is not only likely – it’s almost genetically guaranteed. It’s typical today to take precautions if we know that diabetes, cancer or cardiac disease is in our family tree – but it’s fairly rare to meet someone who takes the same precautions with the alcohol. Unfortunately, the costs for this oversight is staggering and the battle to regain a healthy and happy life once dependency has been established is not an easy one. Alcohol addiction counseling can be a part of getting you or your loved one back to healthy, happy living.

What is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol Addiction is described as a chronic and progressive brain disease.  A person who is suffering is unable to control their craving for alcoholic substances. They are physiologically impaired and there is no choice involved in this. All disease revolves around a central organ or system that is impaired. Alcoholism is not a weakness and it is not a choice. There is measurable change in the brain and to heal there has to be a significant treatment intervention and a significant period of recovery followed by lifelong recovery maintenance. An alcoholic cannot just stop. Period.

The urge to drink alcohol is so strong, that people suffering from alcoholism find it difficult to even reduce consumption, despite the increase problems that arise. Even when the losses are high and the awareness of the destruction apparent, the strength of the urge to drink usurps the rational mind and plunges the alcoholic back to drinking.

Alcoholism is caused by an unending desire to consume alcohol, which is due to both a physiological and a cognitive dependence. There is also extensive literature describing a “spiritual malady” as also being present. So the body, mind and spirit are all three debilitated. To heal – all three must be treated.

Becoming overly dependent on alcohol can cause major issues for a person, such as resulting in extensive damage to the tissues, and spreading of other diseases throughout the body including heart problems, certain cancers, liver and kidney problems and a host of gastric disorders as well. The physiologic risks go on and on. Keep in mind that the brain takes physiology damage too.

Risks of Alcohol

When a person drinks, the alcohol is absorbed in the body through the stomach and enters the bloodstream. The alcohol flows through the blood and reaches the various organs, tissues, and muscles of the body. Temporarily, the drinker feels pleasant effects, but when taken in excess it can have serious effects on health, even leading to terminal illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, alcohol poisoning, etc. Not to mention the losses of employment, marriage, friends, home, respect and trust of children and even freedom (such as in DWIs and incarceration).

Detoxing on your own from alcohol is extremely dangerous. Going into withdrawals for an alcoholic can be life-threatening and your home is not equipped to handle it – nor is an ambulance guaranteed to make it to you in time. In patient medical detox is necessary and provides more protection and 24 hour monitoring to assure your safety. This is not a situation to tough it through or dismiss casually. Please, do not do this at home – go to an addiction treatment center – there are many options available.

How Does a Person Become An Alcoholic?

There are a lot of opinions on this. Most widely accepted is that a person becomes an alcoholic through consumption. Various factors are included here; drinking to excess, drinking regularly, starting at a young age, etc. After all, alcohol is addictive and dependency can be reached easily. But there are also other factors – such as genetic predisposition. If there are people in my family tree who struggled with alcoholism or addiction then my chances are much greater. There is also a greater risk in family legacies that include certain anxiety and mental health disorders.

Consider it this way; there is a base chance that any human being may have to become dependent. Whatever that chance is for you, it increases if you start drinking as a kid/teenager, it increases again if there was alcoholism/addiction on one side of your family, goes even higher if on both sides of your family, goes even higher if you drink to excess or daily or to sooth your feelings and so on.

There are 6 progressive stages of alcohol consumption:

Euphoria: The feeling of happiness that is experienced after the first drink

Excitement: The drinker starts losing control of his or her feelings and emotions.

Confusion: This is the beginning of the feeling of dizziness. The drinker becomes unable to perceive situations correctly, and his or her responses become slow, unable to take responsible decisions.

Stupor: The person loses all control over motions, and is unable to move or respond.

Coma: In this state, the person is unconscious, and may find it difficult to breathe.

Death: this is the extreme stage of alcoholism, where the drinker may die from respiratory arrest, a situation where the drinker is unable to breathe.

Admitting You Have a Drinking Problem

It is commonly thought that people should stop drinking before or once they reach the Euphoria stage. However, there are many who do not stop – many who find they cannot stop. Before there is any hope of healing an alcoholic has to realize they have a drinking problem, and admit it. People who deny it, find it difficult to accept help and are very unlikely to ever overcome this problem. Families who deny the problems of their loved ones only make the problem worse.

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How Can Alcohol Addiction Counseling Help You?

Various treatment options, alcohol addiction counseling tools and techniques can help you regain control of yourself. After medical detox and residential treatment, out patient therapy is one of the most widely accepted tools to help you reclaim control of your life. A seasoned and experienced counselor will address thinking and behavioral patterns, which led to alcohol addiction, and gradually can help you make and keep better choices, diminish relapse risk and increase development of a healthier, happier and more balanced you. Brief Therapy, Solution-Oriented Therapy, ESI Coaching, CBT, Mindfulness techniques, Motivational Interviewing and a variety of other approaches offer a pragmatic and applicable route to long-term recovery for today’s intelligent and fast-paced professional.

Spouses, Partners and Families Need Support.

The idea that the addict is the one who is sick and the only one who needs to get help is toxic and misleading at best. This is a disease that affects the whole family – whomever those loved ones may be. Whether your addicted loved one is in treatment, headed to treatment, just out or even refusing to go and actively in their disease – you need support too.

I work with many spouses, partners and parents of adult addicts and alcoholics. The suffering and wounds they carry as a result of the disease have to be addressed as well. There are specialized alcohol addiction counseling and support groups for family and friends – and there is also private alcohol addiction counseling. For real and lasting healing to take place for any addict/alcoholic or loved one – you have to get help. A family, marriage or relationship is a complex, unique and delicate system. To help it, we have to help all the parts. You need help too, and you deserve it.

Services We Offer

Our specialized Recovery Consultation service has only one purpose; “to help you free yourself from the slavery of addiction and get you back to living a happy, fulfilling and meaningful life.” Recovery from alcohol is a massive challenge, but also know, that together with appropriate treatment and community support, we can overcome your impulse to drink and get you back to leading the life you want.

Ready for Life?  Call Now (346)-493-6181

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Ben Carrettin is a Nationally Board Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor (LPC-S) and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). He is the owner of Practice Improvement Resources, LLC; a private business which offers an array of specialized counseling, evidenced-based clinical consultation, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and targeted ESI-based services to individuals and businesses.