Addiction: A Three-Part Disease Essay

Ricardo Justin Ballinas Sue Wright, M. A.

English 1301-Composition M-W 1:30 pm – 2:50 pm Ricardo Ballinas Addiction: A Three Part Disease October 1st, 2012 Sue Wright Addiction: A Three Part Disease Addiction can be separated into three categories: mind (neurological), body (physical), and spirit (psychological). Within in this breakdown addiction can possibly be explained and properly understood. In order to better understand addiction as a disease as opposed to a moral dilemma it first must be broken down. First you must look at the way in which the chemicals affect the brain.The first attempt at partaking in any mind altering substance can be looked at as a choice to the individual. However what happens after that first time? Are you then in control of how much or how often the substance is introduced to the body? As the substance is consumed it begins to alter the way in which the brain controls our feelings; happy, sad, anger, depression, etc. The brain tries to compensate for the influx of chemicals by reducing the amount of dopamine (a simple organic chemical in the brain system that is responsible for reward-driven learning).Thus when the substance is no longer in the system you can experience extreme “lows” that directly relate to depression.

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The brain then tells the body that it needs more of the DOC (drug of choice) to make up for that loss. It can be argued that once the levels of dopamine have diminished in the brain the choice of whether or not to use the DOC has been lost. Subconsciously the individual will experience the phenomenon of “craving”. As stated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “The initial decision to take drugs is mostly voluntary.However, when drug abuse takes over, a person’s ability to exert self control can become seriously impaired. Brain imaging studies from drug-addicted individuals show physical changes in areas of the brain that are critical to judgment, decision-making, learning and memory, and behavior control. Scientists believe that these changes alter the way the brain works, and may help explain the compulsive and destructive behaviors of addiction” (Volkow 4). This leads into the next breakdown of addiction with the physical component.

Different substances of abuse can cause different forms of physical addiction.This is a key idea on how those who suffer from the disease of addiction can come to rely on the DOC. Physical dependence to a drug can be identified by withdrawal symptoms if the drug is abruptly stopped or decreased. Some substances cause extreme physical pain when withdrawing from the particular substance. Opiates most commonly cause muscle and bone pain with withdrawal symptoms causing vomiting, muscle cramps, convulsions, and delirium.

According to Pleasure Unwoven, while physical dependence may be a component of addiction, it is not, in and of itself, addiction.In fact, physical dependence is a consequence of many medications. For example, certain blood pressure medications can cause physical dependence (McCauley).

Yet, these medications do not lead to addiction; helping to confirm the breakdown of addiction into a three part disease. The third and final breakdown of addiction is in the psychological aspect. It is this component that makes maintaining sobriety so difficult for sufferers. There is no cure for addiction and maintaining sobriety is usually an ongoing quest for those afflicted.Drug addiction results in drug-seeking behaviors and continued use despite negative consequences. Drug-seeking behaviors may include getting the drug from more than one provider or illegally obtaining the drug without a doctor’s prescription.

Addiction to drugs can result in negative consequences in many life functions. These consequences may include loss of work productivity, family or relationship problems or legal issues. Drug addiction results in continued use of the drug despite the negative consequences.According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, “drug addiction differs from drug dependence. Not all people with physical dependence to a drug will go on to develop addiction.

It is believed that certain individuals are predisposed or vulnerable to addiction based on biological, psychological and social influences. The euphoric high produced by many addictive substances is the result of overstimulation of the “pleasure center” of the brain. This is the same area that controls emotions, fear, self-control and overall feelings of wellness.The presence of these foreign chemicals creates a response that the brain will crave as soon as it fades. The brain’s chemistry works against its own health, as it rewires its decision making faculties around the primary goal of finding and taking more of the drug” (1). Many people mistakenly believe that psychological addiction is somehow less serious or real than physical addiction.

The psychological aspects of addiction are much more challenging to repair and recover from than the physical addiction. Psychological addiction can last for years or even a lifetime.The biological aspect of addiction takes into account the genetic and inherited components of addiction, as well as the effects of addiction on the body itself. It also includes the neurobiological and neurobehavioral theories and studies, which are becoming the most popular ways in studying addiction. The physical component of addiction primarily relies on the dependence of the substance, the tolerance that the body creates as a result, and the experience of withdrawal symptoms.

The psychological components of the disease of addiction are related to the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors surrounding and generated by addiction.As stated in The Science of Addiction, “Psychologists have looked at addiction through psychoanalytic theory, social learning theory, classical conditioning theory, as well as personality theory” (74). The psychological component has gained importance recently because of the fact that people diagnosed with addiction more often than not have a co-occurring mental health diagnoses. This breakdown of addiction as a neurological, physical, and psychological problem helps to better understand the disease as a whole. Works Cited Definition of Addiction.

” The American Society of Addiction Medicine. N. p. ,n. d. Web.

29 September 2012 Erickson, Carlton K. The Science of Addiction: From Neurobiology to Treatment. 1st Ed. New York: W. W. Norton ;amp; Company, 2007. Print.

Pleasure Unwoven: An Explanation of the Brain Disease of Addiction. Prod. Jim Clegg. The Institute for Addiction Study, 2010. DVD. Volkow M.

D. , Nora D. “Drugs, Brain, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. ” National Institue on Drug Addiction. August 2010. Web.

29 September 2012.


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