WHAT IS ADDICTIVE BEHAVIOR?
Addiction to alcohol or other drugs is a chronic disease. It is progressive, continuous, and long term. Alcohol or drug abuse means that a person has control over whether he or she drinks or uses.
Chemical dependence means that a person has lost all control over his or her drinking or using behavior.
People suffering from an addictive disease engage in compulsive behavior and gradually lose control of their lives. They continue to drink or use drugs even when they know that doing so has negative consequences. They tend to have low self-esteem and almost inevitably suffer from anxiety and depression.
If someone in your life suffers from addictive disease, you have experienced his or her extreme behavior—ranging from depression to exhilaration—and probably have also experienced his or her denial (“I can quit anytime” or “I don’t have a problem”), dishonesty, frequent disappointments, and series of ruined relationships. These are hallmark behaviors of a person who suffers from addiction to alcohol or drugs.
People who suffer from addictive diseases continue to drink or use drugs, even when they know it will lead to negative consequences.
WHO IS AFFECTED BY ADDICTION?
Alcoholism and drug addiction affect people from all parts of society. They affect rock stars, writers, artists, and homeless people, as well as stay-at-home moms, teenagers, and corporate executives. There are addicts who are students at top universities and physicians at your local hospital. They may be teachers at your neighborhood school or salespeople at your local hardware store.
Studies show that there is a genetic predisposition to alcoholism. About half of all alcoholics had an alcoholic parent. Men seem to be more vulnerable than women to the alcoholic traits of their parents. Women may be affected more by environmental (e.g., financial and life circumstances) than inherited factors.
WHAT ARE THE PHYSICAL EFFECTS OF ADDICTION?
Chronic alcohol abuse produces long-lasting damage in many areas of brain function. It damages the capacity for abstract thinking, problem solving, memory, and physical dexterity.
It also impairs verbal, visual, and spatial ability. The extent of damage to the brain tissue depends on the extent of heavy alcohol abuse. When the drinking stops, a certain amount of healing is possible.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR ADDICTION?
Addictive disease is often progressive and can be fatal. Fortunately, recovery is possible with the right treatment. The first phase of treatment of addictive disease focuses on the physical effects of alcohol or drug use. This can include detoxification or treating life-threatening disorders such as liver failure.
Since addictive disease is primarily a brain disease that results in behavioral symptoms, the main treatment is psychosocial therapy. This treatment usually focuses on the irrational feelings and distorted thinking that accompany chronic alcohol and drug abuse.
Alcoholism and drug addiction are chronic diseases that require a lifetime recovery plan. Most successful treatment plans include a focus on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and involve ongoing, long-term participation in self help groups. People who were hospitalized for treatment often continue attending 12-step meetings and participating in group and individual psychotherapy after they leave the hospital.
At TherapyWorks we have programs for addiction therapy, including two research-based programs to help teens and their family’s address drug and alcohol related concerns.