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Is Addiction a Disease? Understanding the Full “Addiction Spectrum”

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There are so many different stigmas around addiction. And for the most part, they are widely accepted without much thought or consideration. But, once your loved one falls into a bad habit like addiction, it’s time to start questioning addiction and what it really means.

It’s time to start thinking about substance abuse differently.

What is an Addiction?

The first thing that is important to understand is exactly how a person becomes addicted. The answer to this question put simply is – the brain. Addiction is a complex disease, typically chronic, that affects the way the brain and body function. Over time, the brain and body are tricked into thinking a certain substance is necessary to feel normal. When this starts to happen, a person grows a dependency that can’t be easily broken.

Addiction symptoms vary per person, but typically include a loss of control, continued use despite consequences, failed attempts to quit, tolerance and feelings of withdrawal. These symptoms usually end up causing damage to families, jobs, responsibilities and loved ones.

While this definition might seem like a one-size-fits-all approach to understanding addiction – addiction is anything but one-size-fits-all. The more you dig into what addiction is, you’ll realize there is a difference between the “addiction disease” and the “addiction spectrum” ways of thinking.

Understanding Addiction as a Spectrum

Addiction is widely believed to be a disease. And just like with any disease, there are varying degrees. When someone is diagnosed with cancer, they are given a stage that signifies the severity and progression of their unique situation. There isn’t just one treatment plan for any stage of cancer. The treatment plan varies based on the specific individual and where they are in the spectrum.

Addiction is the same. While you don’t typically think of someone being in a certain stage of alcoholism or drug dependency, it is possible that addiction is more of a sliding scale.

According to a new book by author Paul Thomas, MD, he argues that there are additional factors that contribute to the severity of someone’s addiction. This can include life events, genetic factors and other influences on a person. This mindset puts a wrench in traditional thinking, but it offers a more personalized approach to understanding addiction.

In this way of thinking, there are eleven different factors that specialists can use to determine where someone falls on the scale of addiction. Some people keep their addiction hidden well and others destroy their lives. The number of factors someone is dealing with determines where they sit on the addiction spectrum.

What it Means for You

While this all might sound confusing and a little overwhelming, the important thing to takeaway from it is that you shouldn’t blindly accept what you think you know about addiction. When you have a loved one suffering from alcohol or drug addiction, it’s important to start exploring what it really means and ways you can be a better support system for them throughout the journey.

Find Support for Addiction at Footprints

At Footprints Beachside Recovery, we can help people understand the nature of alcohol addiction and drug addiction. Our programs are designed to equip your loved one with the tools necessary to reduce the risk of relapse and regain control. Talk to one our admissions specialists today and learn how you can help your loved one start the process of healing.