Addiction - the scientific approach

  1. noror
    I would like to share with you with the results of a very viral survey that I found in the internet. It is no scientific study but still, I think it is worth discussing. The question of this survey was simple: Is addiction a mental disorder or a disease? The results are as follows and I find them pretty fascinating.

    16.2% said addiction is a disease

    35.1 % said addiction is a medical disorder but not a disease

    37.8 % stated that it is neither a disease nor a medical disorder but it is a real thing

    10.8 % said that it is just a made up term and does not mean anything

    So as we can see 51.3% of voters see addiction as something that should to be classified as a some kind of condition, and 48.7% don’t see this as a medical condition of any sort at all.

    Addiction is definitely a medical condition, and the results of various drugs abuse can be seen by studying the brain of users, as well as addicted ones develop different responses from normal people to certain stimuli. Also, neurobiological effects of this phenomena can be studied and are definitely a real thing. Furthermore not only being addicted to a certain substance, but even being prone to any addiction is a thing that can be specified, precisely described and seen on the structure and chemical balance of brain.

    According to the prestigious American psychiatric association Addiction is a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence. The main symptom of an addiction is considered without a doubt to be “drug seeking behavior”. The patients mind is dominated constantly by thoughts on how to get the drug, and put end to the endless seeming craving that consumes him.

    Craving and seeking as well as many symptoms and mechanisms of addiction were carefully studied by scientists . We now know that most of this substances work by releasing neurotransmitter dopamine. A chemical, that can be described as a “reward molecule”. This makes you achieve a state of consciousness that is described as “high”. Our brains evolved to release this neurochemical in order to guide our more primal versions to behavior that is likely to guarantee survival. This meant most importantly looking for food, having sex etc. That’s why eating and having sex are pleasurable in the first place! Meth , heroin etc. interact with this “brain reward circuit”. They can cross the blood brain barrier and alter functions of our mind. With no real stimuli from the outside world, your brain is flooded with dopamine and this makes you feel like you achieved everything you ever wanted. Here comes the downside though. Remember when I said that dopamine evolved in order to guide our ancestors. Make them search for food, fight for mate to reproduce with and so on. Well, we cannot escape our biology, and once you get yourself high your brain will crave for more. You will be forced (stronger/weaker – depending on the substance and number of times you used) to search for more. This situation when your brain forces you to seek for more of this crystal/powder is a brain disorder and definitely a real thing. In practice number of times you need to use in order to get yourself completely “hooked up” and lose control varies, and can be anything between 1 to 100 times. Some of the drugs does not produce addiction at all but this is very rare and is connected with the rapid tolerance you develop for this substance (see LSD,MDMA).

    To sum up, the brain disorder called addiction, has pretty strong neurobiological background. This cannot by any means be devaluated, called a “real thing” though not a disease/condition and so on. Furthermore this means that addicts should be treated as patients of any sort. Like people who suffer and struggle.

    I thought it was important to clear things up. I hope that this will make you stop using the word junkie and maybe society will start to treat addicts with proper respect, and stop attaching stigma to drug abuse.

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