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Understanding Addiction as a Brain Disease  

The mere fact that relapse is more common than uncommon sheds light on how difficult it truly is to break addiction. No one enters rehabilitation with the intention to fail; rather, they enter a treatment program hoping in their heart they can stop using for good. The problem with this approach is that addiction doesn’t happen in the heart. It happens in the brain. 

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as a chronic, underlying, largely genetic brain disease, making it a medical issue rather than a behavioral issue or moral failing and can be a root cause behind other behavioral, social and psychological problems like depression, cognitive distortions, social isolation and anxiety.  

Addiction is created when a person seeks the help of drugs and alcohol to stimulate the senses once ignited by life itself. Drugs are powerful because they are immediate, and they are dangerous because they, quite literally, hijack the reward centers of the brain, causing it to no longer seek other methods of feeling good. The brain learns the easiest and fastest way to feeling good is the drugs and, as a result, creates neural pathways specific to the use of the drug. 

In other words, the brain stops using the neural pathways once used for such things as communication, interaction, creative-thinking, self-love and self-improvement and creates a straight line of communication with drugs and alcohol and any methods of communication necessary to attain them. The brain seeks to dispose of any behavior or activity not deemed useful in getting drugs and alcohol, and creates and supports behaviors and beliefs that are conducive to getting drugs and alcohol, which are often illegal and antisocial. Those behaviors and beliefs create an alternative cycle of behaviors and beliefs that support unhealthy characteristics such as isolation, mistrust, anger, depression, self-hate and poor physical health. 

Alcoholism is approximately 60 percent genetic and biological, which is approximately the same percentage as asthma, or high blood pressure, yet no one would consider treating those conditions with psychological methods alone. A whole person, a mind/body approach, is required. That is why the approach taken by Back2Basics applies therapeutic lifestyle changes, in addition to medical and psychological treatment; a calculated approach to reducing the risk of relapse.  

Research has shown a lifestyle equipped with supportive relationships, a healthy diet, regular exercise, service to others, relaxation and an open mindset can be life changing, if not lifesaving. FBN 

By Roy DuPrez, M.Ed. 

Roy DuPrez, M.Ed., is the founder of Back2Basics Outdoor Adventures. He can be reached at Rduprez@b2badventures.com. For more information, visit back2basicsoutdooradventures.com. 

 

Photo caption: 

Back2Basics Outdoor Adventures applies lifestyle changes to treats young men for addiction. 

Courtesy photo  

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