IS ADDICTION REALLY A DISEASE?

The short answer is yes. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), National Institute of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO) it is a disease. In 1956, they classified alcoholism as a disease and then addiction followed in 1987. It's a brain disease which fundamentally changes brain pathways. Symptoms show up in the form of complulsive behaviors despite negative consequences.


WHY CAN'T I JUST STOP DRINKING AND/OR USING?

What being addicted does is change our brain pathways. In short, individuals with addiction issues lose the ability to "just stop". Addiction works on the pleasure centers of the brains overloading an individual with dopamine. It works on the same part of the brain that allows us to feel good when we eat a tasty meal, drink water when we're thirsty, and orgasm when we have sex.


WHERE SHOULD I START?

Here are a few options for you:

  • Substance abuse treatment facility (rehab). There are a couple of types of substance abuse treatment, outpatient, residential (short and long-term), drug counseling, group counseling etc. Each facility should have a combination of these types of treatment. Here's a couple links to find a treatment center near you: SAMHSA or NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH. This was the third thing that I did when I got sober.
  • A medical professional with a background in addiction. Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Therapist, Counselor etc. Addiction is different than the typical things that these professionals deal with so make sure that whoever you choose has a certification and/or background in dealing with addiction. This was the first thing that I did when I decided to get sober.
  • 12 step fellowship. This refers to groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. These support groups have helped millions of people recover over the years. This was the second thing that I did when I got sober.

DO I NEED REHAB?

Although not impossible to get sober without the help of a substance abuse treatment program (rehab), it definitely increases the likelihood of success. Think about this: how easy or likely is someone to lose weight and get healthy living in a household with people who don't eat healthy or work out, hanging out with people who don't eat healthy or workout, going to the gym by yourself with no one around to help you AND you haven't eaten healthy or worked out in say 20 years? With addiction, not only is it like trying to do that...it's also trying to do that with your brain pathways working against you.


HOW MUCH DOES REHAB COST? WHAT DO I DO? DO I NEED INSURANCE?

Here are a few tips to help you find the right treatment program for you or your loved one:

  • Contact your medical insurance company, ask them about your plan and how to go about locating a treatment center.
  • Here's a couple links to find a treatment center near you: SAMHSA treatment locator or NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH
  • If you don't have insurance, each state has funding to provide treatment to people without insurance. Here's a LINK to help get you started.

WHAT ABOUT AA? DO I HAVE TO GO? WHAT IF I ONLY WANT TO GO TO AA INSTEAD OF TREATMENT?

Alcoholics Anonymous has been around since 1935 and has helped millions of people over the years get sober. There's also Narcotics Anonymous (NA) which has a similar structure and equally as helpful. It's free to attend and they say that the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking (or using drugs). AA has been a part of my recovery because it's a community of people who support each other towards the common goal of sobriety. While AA is helpful, many people have gotten sober without it as well. As far as AA or NA instead of treatment, that's a decision best left up to you. I personally believe that the more sources of support that we have, the better. Here's a LINK for more info on AA and finding a meeting nearest you. And here's one for NA.


WILL ANYONE FIND OUT IF I GO TO TREATMENT OR TALK TO A DOCTOR ABOUT MY ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE?

As with other medical conditions, your treatment is strictly confidential. There are a few other levels of confidentiality that people with addiction receive as well. Medical professionals will not tell your job, your family, your friends, or anyone else without your written permission. Only the people that you want or need to know will be included.