unger3Addiction is defined as a persistent, compulsive dependence on a behavior or a substance. The term has been partially replaced by the word ‘dependence’ for substance abuse. Experts have however, expanded the scope of addiction to include mood-altering behaviors and activities. They now speak of two types of addictions: substance addiction, (alcohol, drugs, tobacco); process addiction (gambling, spending, shopping, eating and sexual activity). Substance abuse is characterized by frequent relapse or return to the abused substance. There is however a growing consensus acknowledging that many addicts, such as polydrug users, are addicted to more than one substance or process. Addiction treatment is a necessity for many.

Addiction is a progressive syndrome which means it increases the degree of severity over time when left unchecked. It will also eventually interfere with daily activities and responsibilities, work, relationship and eventually take its toll on your health. The sad part of being addicted is that the person who may be suffering from this problem may not be aware of his condition and that he is causing troubles for themselves and the people around them. It is now also considered to be a brain disorder because drugs change the brain; they change the structure and how it works. There may be more than one definite fact to consider about addiction and that includes the importance to recognize and acknowledge that its cause is not simply a search for pleasure and that addiction has nothing to deal with a person’s morality or strength of character. Experts and researchers are still arguing whether addition is a ‘disease’ or a mental illness, whether drug dependence and addiction mean the same thing and many other aspects of addiction.


Causes of Addiction

We learn more all the time about the causes of addiction. Doctors say there is a strong link between the repeated use or engagement of addictive substances, activities and how the human brain experiences pleasure – the use of such substances brings about rewards, leading to further and more frequent use. The addictive substance, be it be nicotine, alcohol or some drug actually causes physical changes in some nerve cells in the brain or neuron. Neurons release neurotransmitters into the synapses (empty spaces) between nerve cells, which are received by receptors in other neurons. Simply put, it’s the brains way of communicating and building up networks inside the human brain. After a while of use of addictive substances, the user does not get the same pleasure as the first time and so needs to increase the dose. In doing so, his/her body’s tolerance of that substance also increases. Eventually, the user no longer experiences pleasure from the substance and takes it simply to prevent withdrawal symptoms; that is taking the substance just to make them feel normal. Experts say that when tolerance increases, the risk of addiction is much higher. In addition to being preoccupied with the use and acquiring of the addictive substance, the diagnosis of addiction encompasses five criteria. They are as follows:


  • loss of willpower
  • harmful consequences
  • unmanageable lifestyle
  • tolerance or escalation of use
  • withdrawal symptoms upon quitting


Addiction Management and Treatment

Addiction management and treatment require both medical and social approaches. Substance addicts may need hospital treatment to manage withdrawal symptoms. Individual or group psychotherapy is often helpful but only after substance use has stopped. Anti-addition medications, such as methadone and naltrexone are also commonly used. A new treatment option has also been developed that allows family physicians to treat heroin addicts, one of the most infamous addictions in the states, from their offices rather than sending their patients to methadone clinics. The drug is called buprenorphine (Suboxone). Researchers are also still working on finding workable pharmacological treatments for various additions. Clinical trials has been testing a number of drugs currently in use to treat various diseases to see if whether they can be used to treat addiction. For instance, cocaine withdrawal is eased by boosting dopamine levels in the brain, so scientists are studying drugs that increase the level of dopamine such as Ritalin. It is currently used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and amantadine, a drug used for flus and Parkinson’s disease. On the other hand, behavioral treatments help patients engage in the treatment process, modify their attitudes and behaviors related to drug abuse, and increase healthy life skills. These treatments can also enhance the effectiveness of medications and help people stay in treatment longer. Treatment for drug abuse and addiction can be delivered in many different settings using a variety of behavioral approaches.


Drug Abuse and Addiction

Because drug abuse and addiction have so many dimensions and disrupts so many aspects of a person’s life, there can be no cure-all for this and treatment is nothing but simple. Drug addiction treatment can include medications, behavioral therapies or their combination. Effective treatment programs typically incorporate many components, each directed to a particular aspect of the illness and its consequences. Addiction treatment must help the individual stop using drugs, maintain a drug-free lifestyle, and achieve productive functioning in the family, at work, and in society. Because addiction is typically a chronic disease, people cannot simply stop using drugs for a few days and be cured. Most patients require long-term or repeated episodes of care to achieve the ultimate goal of sustained abstinence and recovery of their lives. Finally, people who are addicted to drugs often suffer from other health (e.g., depression, HIV), occupational, legal, familial, and social problems that should be addressed concurrently. The best programs provide a combination of therapies and other services to meet an individual patient’s needs. Psychoactive medications, such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety agents, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotic medications, may be critical for treatment success when patients have co-occurring mental disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders (including post-traumatic stress disorder), bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. In addition, most people with severe addiction abuse multiple drugs and require treatment for all substances abused.

At Unger Primary Care Concierge Medical Center, we are specialists in more than just chronic disease states such as addiction. We are also experts at comprehensive care. We don’t restrict our course of treatment to a single medication or routine. We offer a full scope of behavioral and pharmaceutical assistance for those grappling with addiction. We also offer fixed costs for many such patients. Care to learn more about how we can care for you? Have us give you a call.