Alcoholism/drug addiction is a disease of the brain caused by a genetically altered neurotransmission system. The dysfunction of the neurological system caused by continued use of drugs impacts every area of the victim’s life – physical, mental, social and spiritual. The disease is classified as chronic because no matter how long the period of abstinence, any reintroduction of psychoactive drugs return the addict to pathological modes of thinking, acting, feeling and believing. The disease, however, can be completely arrested through continuous abstinence from drugs, a reframing of the mind through cognitive therapy, healthy daily living and development of the spirit through 12-step programs.
The term refers to the reduced response to a drug’s action. The alcoholic/addict may often show abnormally high tolerance for drugs in the early stages of the disease. In the later stages, tolerance decreases and small amounts of a drug cause intoxication. At this stage, the liver is malfunctioning and unable to clear the toxins from the body.
The alcoholic/addict’s body adapts to drugs over time and needs them for the addict to feel “normal.” When drugs are removed the body must compensate, causing a state of “hyperexciteability” or “hyperdepression.” Some drugs cause little physical withdrawal while others (alcohol, opiates) cause severe withdrawal.
Loss of Control
Alcoholics/addicts lose control over both the amount of the drug ingested and the time and place of alcohol/drug consumption. This loss of control is frightening and continues despite promises made to oneself and one’s family and friends.
Using Despite Serious Problems
The alcoholic/addict begins to suffer serious emotional, psychological, physical, and financial problems directly related to the disease. Despite the weight of these problems, the addict continues to drink/use and may still deny that there is a link between his/her life problems and alcohol/drug use.
All psychoactive drugs act on the dopamine reward system of the brain, the seat of addiction. The addict must abstain from all psychoactive drugs lest they trigger the same dysfunction that is at the heart of the addictive process.
The process of returning the mind, body and spirit of the alcoholic/addict to health must be rooted in abstinence from all psychoactive drugs. The alcoholic/addict who works a program devoted to recovery enjoys a new way of living and deep satisfaction with living sober and free.
Like recovery, relapse is a process rather than en event. Relapse most often begins with the addict letting old ways of thinking and feeling into daily life. The actual ingestion of a drink or a drug is the final step in the relapse process. Relapse prevention is an ongoing focus of Lakeside’s continuing care program.