Drug addiction is a brain disease that can be treated, but many people don't understand why people become addicted to drugs, or how drugs change the brain to foster compulsive drug use
Addiction (also known as Substance Use Disorder or SUD) is a chronic, relapsing, and life-threatening disease. People with SUD experience find it hard to control or stop drug use, despite harmful consequences.
SUD, like other diseases, is preventable and treatable. If left untreated, addiction can negatively impact every area of the individual's life, and the lives of their loved ones.
Many people decide to try drugs, but no one makes a decision to develop a Substance Use Disorder (SUD) -- that is a biological process. There are documented brain changes in those with SUD that interfere with the person's ability to resist intense urges to take drugs.
This is why drug addiction is considered a "relapsing" disease—people in recovery are at risk for returning to drug use even after years of not taking the drug.
FACT: When someone is addicted to a alcohol, opioids, or other drugs, their brain is literally re-wired to seek that drug above all else. Addiction is complicated and includes many factors, including genetics, upbringing, trauma, and other influences. Just like many other diseases, treatment is available and recovery is possible.
FACT: Addiction is a chronic illness. Like diabetes, it requires lifelong management. Getting well involves major lifestyle and behavior changes. Such change takes time and energy, and sometimes setbacks happen. A good recovery program should include a plan in case of relapse.
FACT: Treatment (whether residential or outpatient) is often a step toward recovery, but it’s just the beginning. Many people need multiple treatment visits to get on a sober path. Staying stable inrecovery require involves a lifelong commitment to managing the disease.
FACT: This myth is particularly dangerous. Addiction is a disease that can be fatal, and the longer someone waits to get help, the sicker they will get. Studies show that people forced into treatment have the same chance of success as those who decide to go on their own. People have more resources to draw on if they get help before their illness results in serious life consequences like loss of job, home, family connections, etc. The sooner someone gets help for addiction, the better!
FACT Prescription opioids can be highly addictive. About 80% of people who use heroin first misused prescription medications (per NIDA).
Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, are traumatic events that occur in childhood.
These can include experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect; witnessing violence; or family instability due to substance misuse, mental health problems, or parental separation/household members in jail.
ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance misuse in adulthood. ACEs can also negatively impact education and job opportunities. However, ACEs can be prevented, and can be addressed for those adults dealing with high ACEs scores.
Learn more about ACEs and how to find your ACEs score by clicking here.
Is Addiction Really a Disease? with Dr. Kevin McCauley
Discussion with local experts who work on the front lines of the battle against addiction in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula.
Find scientific information about the disease of drug addiction, including harmful consequences and basic approaches prevent/treat addiction.
Get the facts about how addiction affects the body, brain, and behavior, while learning about the biological and psychological factors.