Addiction is a medical disease. The problem with addiction- preventing it, treating it, getting insurance to pay for its effects- is that no one actually believes that. We recognize mental illnesses as a disease, and addiction is similar: The faulty body part is the brain, and the symptoms are behaviors…
Addiction is a medical disease. The problem with addiction – preventing it, treating it, getting insurance to pay for its effects – is that no one actually believes that.
We recognize mental illnesses as a disease, and addiction is similar: The faulty body part is the brain, and the symptoms are behaviors. But while we embrace schizophrenia, for instance, as illness, we chalk addiction up to selfishness, and we hope that it will just go away.
Addiction occurs when the brain, through exposure to alcohol, other drugs, or addictive behaviors such as gambling, can no longer regulate the neurotransmitter dopamine. When we feel pleasure, dopamine is responsible. The brains of addicted people process this chemical poorly, and receive garbled signals from wiser parts of the brain dedicated to safety and considering the future.
Families of addicted people tolerate more severe symptoms than those dealing with other illnesses. Imagine that a loved one had a heart attack. Would you hesitate, even for a second, before seeking medical attention? Would you stop and worry about who might find out if you make the 911 call, or wonder if he or she might just pull through “on their own?” The idea is ludicrous.
But how is that different from mothers, fathers, spouses and friends frozen into inaction while an addicted loved one overdoses, breaks into houses and cars, drives drunk or high, contracts HIV or hepatitis C from needle use, and generally terrorizes the family?
Family members desperately want to help, and therefore continue to pay cellphone bills and parking tickets, provide a place to live, do the addicted person’s wash and wake them up every morning so they don’t lose their job.
Think back to our chemistry lesson. The addicted brain is physically ill-equipped to make good decisions and fuels a constant craving for a “high” of any kind. Addicted people who seek treatment usually do so after thoroughly feeling the devastating consequences of their addictions. And this is not possible while family and friends are smoothing things over.
The problem with addiction is that even if we know it’s a disease, we don’t treat it like one. Your loved one may look like the same person you’ve always known, but they aren’t: They have an addicted brain.
Educate yourself about addiction, attend Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meetings, and set an example by telling the truth about your experiences dealing with addiction. Article Link “Insurance News Net”…