Two articles came across my desk last week pertaining to addiction. The first makes the statement, "Addiction is a brain disorder, not just bad behavior." Specialists at American Society for Addiction Medicine affirm that whether it involves drugs, alcohol, or compulsive eating, treating addiction and preventing relapse is a long-term endeavor just as with other chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.
Addiction generally is described by its behavioral symptoms: the highs, the cravings, and the things people will do to achieve one and avoid the other. Really? How different is that than a diabetic whose behavioral symptoms include eating several small meals, testing blood sugar levels to avoid too high or too low, and experiencing depression more often than perhaps a non-diabetic. In both instances, it's a brain dysfunction in regulating the body's functions.
Don't misread the above. Addicted individuals still must choose to fight back and treat their addiction. Reprogramming one's brain reward system is a tough battle. When someone is addicted, making your brain NOT WANT the pleasure you've provided it is not easy, and it may not "get it" the first course of treatment. It might take several times before one is able to reteach the brain's reward system that it can't have what it screams for.
According to the second article by Oriana House, "Alcoholism, drug addiction and mental illness are real medical conditions that can affect anyone." In fact, one in four families will experience either a mental health or a substance abuse problem. But - be assured that with effective treatment, people do recover.
Addiction is a family disease because, when someone is an addict, that addiction touches the entire family. Ask anyone you know and we all know someone who has a family member or a friend or neighbor who is experiencing an addiction. The ripple effect of their addiction touches their loved ones! Addiction will turn a person into a liar, a thief, a cheat and totally unreliable. You choose not to be around that person, because of the pain they cause you. Remember, they are also in pain; they just may not know it at the time. Offering support means more than words; you may have to be the one to literally take them to treatment (remember the liar and unreliable?).
Remember: Saturday is drug take-back day. Drop your unused medications off at any sheriff's office and most police departments.
The Mental Health and Recovery Services Board is committed to sharing information and resources for better mental health and the prevention of substance abuse. If you would like more information, please call the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties at (419) 448-0640. The board's office hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.
Nancy Cochran, executive director