Asking, “Is addiction a disease?” is an important first step in getting help for yourself or a loved one. There’s a serious lack of education about the disease of addiction and what it actually is. When you don’t know that addiction is a legitimate disease, you may think that people with addictions should simply be able to quit drinking or doing drugs. Due to the severity of addiction, many people are dying because they can’t stop drinking or using.
Understanding the Limbic System When Asking “Is Addiction a Disease?”
The limbic system is a crucial part of the brain. It’s what helps all living animals, including humans, to survive. Without this part of the brain, we wouldn’t know when to eat, drink or reproduce. This part of the brain fully matures in adolescence. While its job is to tell us to continue doing any action that brings us pleasure, sometimes it doesn’t know when to stop.
The type of learning that this part of the brain does is called context-dependent memory and it reminds us to go eat when we’re hungry. This is great when we’re hungry and trying to stay alive, but when it over functions, it can result in addiction. This same part of the brain says that we should do a pleasurable action when we’re sad, angry or stressed. You can begin to see how this is a problem when our solution is turning to drugs or alcohol.
Addiction Doesn’t have a Stop Button
The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that tells you that even though the action brings you pleasure, there are negative consequences. When this part of the brain doesn’t function properly, you continue doing this action despite consequences. The other big issue with this part of the brain not functioning is that it has other responsibilities including:
- Impulse control
- Emotional regulation
- Fear modulation
Through scientific discoveries, we can now make sense as to why people with an addiction act how they do. They disregard the fact that they have a problem due to a lack of self-awareness. Many people with addictions isolate due to a lack of attunement, and they lash out because of poor emotional regulation. Without impulse control, people with an addiction can’t think before they act, so they use compulsively.
Healing the Brain
Is addiction a disease that’s ruining your life or the life of a loved one? Whether you or a loved one has an addiction to opiates, alcohol or other drugs, there is a way to recover. Through different forms of therapy, there are ways to heal the brain to give people a much better life. When a person is free from active addiction, he or she can begin working on healing the prefrontal cortex in amazing ways. This is why so many people who get clean are able to repair relationships and other aspects of their lives.