Addiction. Is it real? What is it? These are common questions society asks. It is important to understand the terms Addiction and Physical Dependence.
Addiction vs Physical Dependence defined:
- Physical Dependence is normal physiology that develops when a person uses high doses of a substance such as an opioid for longer than a few weeks. It can be resolved by having a slow taper process off the substance; noting there will most likely be a form of withdrawal symptoms if abruptly stopped or too quickly tapered.
- Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain.
How Does Addiction Affect the Brain?
Addiction affects different parts of the brain chemistry than physical dependence generally involving continuous uncontrollable cravings. The brain biology changes over time and when this abnormal altering happens it impacts the structure of the brain in a negative way. It then produces unhealthy results, and this is known as brain pathology disease. This happens, for example, in persons with opioid addiction. The issue with using opioids for long periods of time creates what is called chronic use, therefore, resulting over time into chronic brain disease. Even though there may be times that a person does not use substances, the fact the cravings are still occurring is merely a result of the diseased brain and it is those cravings that tend to lead to relapse for many people.
Many of society’s views on addiction are that it is a personal “choice”. This is true to a certain degree, such as it is initially a person’s choice to use. But, over time, the person becomes addicted, which is a disease. We must note the one thing that becoming addicted to a substance never discriminates. It can happen to anyone no matter the person’s background, economic status, social status, demographics, culture, or upbringing.