Addiction Is A Disease, Not A Choice

Addiction Is A Disease, Not A Choice

It's time society stops turning a blind eye to the facts at hand.

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I recently read an article claiming that addiction is not a disease. And I'm not sorry to say, that's bullshit.

Saying that addiction is not a disease because it starts with a choice is completely discrediting the scientific facts proving that it is a disease of the brain. The American Society of Addiction Medicine classifies addiction as a chronic disease of the brain, and not without good reason.

The article mentioned above has several flaws in its argument. The first flaw in this argument is that it states that addiction is not hereditary or degenerative (which by the way, it is).

There isn't such thing as a single "addiction gene." Instead, there are biological differences, combinations of genes and differences in DNA sequences that can make people more or less susceptible to addiction, as well as certain genes being present that make it easier or harder to stop their use once addiction has begun. These genes and sequences in DNA can be passed down in families, causing those who are related to someone suffering from addiction to be more susceptible to addiction as well. The University of Utah compiled a list of genes that have been linked to playing a role in addiction which can be found here.

Studies of identical twins showed that if one twin was to experience addiction, 76 percent of the time the other twin will also experience addiction, and vice-versa.

The part that really kills me about this article is saying that addiction is not degenerative. I just don't understand how someone could have such a lack of knowledge in the role drugs play on the brain to try and say that they do not cause any deterioration of the brain.

First, we'll start with central nervous system stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamines. These drugs speed up brain activity, increase blood pressure and increase heart rate. This causes blood vessels to constrict which causes strokes and can cause blood pressure to become so high it causes sudden death. Chronic cocaine users often experience cardiac arrest or seizures due to their prolonged use. Prolonged use of meth can cause permanent damage to certain brain cells, the most prevalent being those of dopaminergic chemical signaling (causing a decrease in dopamine levels). The University of Utah performed research showing that meth users were three times more likely than non-drug users to develop Parkinson's disease due to the damage of the dopaminergic system. More studies have shown that abuse of drugs such as meth and ecstasy can have neurological consequences that are similar to that of traumatic brain injuries.

Alcoholism can cause those a deficit in vitamins such as Vitamin B1. Lack of this vitamin can cause Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, a disabling disorder that can cause paralysis of nerves controlling the eyes, problems with coordination, involuntary eye movements and double vision. 90 percent of those with this syndrome go on to develop Korsakoff's psychosis which can cause more coordination issues, trouble walking, chronic memory issues and hallucinations.

Data suggest that chronic opioid users, which includes prescription painkillers such as Vicodin, Percocet, oxycodone and heroin, modifies the function and structure of the brain that causes issues with impulse control and emotion regulation. Research also suggests that chronic heroin users will experience degeneration of white matter in the brain, which can cause issues with stress management, behavior regulation and the ability to perform decision making.

Inhalants can cause sudden death just like stimulants by causing irregular heart rate and consequently causing heart failure. But along with that, certain inhalants (such as toluene and naphthalene) can cause damage to the myelin sheath in nerves fibers which directly help conduct nerve impulses. More nerve damage due to inhalants can cause complications similar to those who suffer from multiple sclerosis, a central nervous system disease that causes issues with coordination, weakness in limbs, numbness/tremors, issues with attention/memory, and speech impediments. Chronic use of inhalants can also cause issues with movement, hearing, vision and cognition.

As you can see, chronic drug use does cause degeneration of the body and the brain.

The next part of the article that I have an issue with is the line "A patient with cancer is not cured if locked in a cell, whereas an alcoholic is automatically cured. No access to alcohol means no alcoholism." For someone who is heavily addicted to drugs, quitting cold turkey can be incredibly unsafe. There are plenty of drugs where if you were to put this person locked in a cell and force them to quit, they'll die. For some people, using these drugs long enough causes their body to literally become dependant on them to function. Sudden withdrawal can cause some serious issues. Alcohol withdrawal can cause brain damage, seizures, heart palpitation, and death. A combination of these is called delirium tremens, which occurs in up to 10 percent of all alcoholics who attempt to detox and ultimately kills 35 percent of them. In fact, Psychology Today says that quitting alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids cold turkey, without medical help, can kill you.

Lastly, I have an issue with this article saying "When we allow people to refer to addiction as a disease, we are placing it alongside things like cancer and that is not fair at all." Before I continue, I do not want to discredit how truly awful cancer is. That is not my intention. What I'm irritated with is people saying that addiction and cancer are not comparable. It's true that many forms of cancer develop for reasons unknown that are out of our control. But cancers such as lung cancer (caused by smoking) and melanoma (caused by prolonged exposure to the sun or UV lights, a.k.a. tanning) are things we can control. Would you look at someone with lung cancer or melanoma and say "Well, you decided to smoke/tan. It was a choice you made, so your disease is invalid"? No, you wouldn't. Would you look at someone with diabetes or heart disease and say "Well, you chose to eat poorly and not exercise, so your disease in invalid"? No, you wouldn't.

Yes, addiction starts with the choice of the person to pick up that drug. But their brain and their body literally form a dependency and it is out of their control to whether or not they form an addiction. No one wants to have cancer. No one wants to have diabetes or heart disease. And no one wants to have an addiction to drugs.

While the first use and early stage of addiction is a choice, eventually the brain will change so much that people will lose control of their behavior and will to stop because their body is dependant on the drug. Eating poorly/not exercising is a choice, smoking is a choice and tanning is a choice, yet we accept the diseases that are consequently developed from these choices. Why can we not accept that addiction is also a disease?

It's time society stops turning a blind eye to the facts at hand. Addiction is hereditary, it is degenerative, it can kill, it is a disease. By trying to force the notion that addiction is a choice and not a disease you are preventing people from seeking help from their disease because they fear the societal repercussions. Addiction is a disease, and those suffering deserve all the help that those suffering from other diseases get.

I don't care if you think addiction is a choice; you're wrong. I have presented plenty of backed up facts to prove that this belief is wrong and honestly downright stupid. If you continue to hold onto this notion, you are a part of the problem preventing those affected from getting help.

Addiction is a disease, not a choice. And it's about time we start acting like it.

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The Deeper Meaning Behind Winnie The Pooh

Believe these ideas or not, but the theories are all too interesting to push aside.
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There have been many theories behind the personalities of characters on our favorite childhood show, “Winnie The Pooh." Winnie, Piglet, Tiger, Eeyore, Rabbit, Owl and Christopher Robin are believed to all suffer from mental illness. While this could definitely be overstretching by fans, the behaviors of these characters perfectly match certain diseases.

Don't let these ruin your perception of the show, it's all theory-based.

Winnie the Pooh

Pooh Bear is the fun-loving and caring main character of the show. A loyal fluffy teddy bear with a signature catchphrase of, “Oh, bother," Pooh Bear is the leader of his friends. His over-obsession with honey and willingness to do whatever it takes to get honey — including putting himself in danger — exhibits signs of impulsivity to obsessive fixations. This is described as an excessive attachment.

Piglet

Piglet is Pooh Bear's sidekick and often deemed the “worry-wart" of the group. He's anxious and fearful, always questioning their adventures. His catchphrase is “Oh, d-d-dear." Piglet's ears even twitch when he gets anxious, so he exhibits traits consistent with generalized anxiety disorder. This is described as excessive and disproportionate anxiety over life.


Tigger

Tigger is often one of the most lovable and energetic characters on the show. He is usually bouncing off the walls on his tail, the easily distracted and trouble-making one of the group. He exhibits symptoms of ADHD, attentive deficit hyperactivity disorder. This disorder is known for causing someone to struggle to focus and sit still. Many people with ADHD act without thinking, which describes how Tigger is constantly finding trouble.

Eeyore

Eeyore is the gloomy, pessimistic friend who is usually covered by clouds. His house is built of sticks and is constantly being destroyed and then rebuilt again. His catchphrase, “Thanks for noticing," indicates his low self-esteem. His character obviously suffers from depression; his reluctance to go along with the group and a preference for being alone displays his introverted personality. Eeyore is consistently having his world crash on him — literally with his home falling apart — and he struggles very hard to rebuild it.

Giphy

Rabbit

Rabbit is often the more tightly-wound and particular friend who is obsessed with keeping his garden in order. Rabbit is a good friend though he sometimes loses his temper. He's very protective and often harsh when things don't turn out perfectly especially to Tigger. Rabbit shows signs of OCD, obsessive compulsive Disorder. This is described as unreasonable thoughts or fears that lead to repetitive behaviors or compulsions and obsessions.

Owl

Owl is often regarded as the smartest and wittiest of the group. He acts wise, though is often very confused or disoriented, even misspelling his name as “W-O-L." Owl displays signs of dyslexia, often described as a reading disorder despite intelligence. Difficulties spelling words or reading out loud are often symptoms as well.

Christopher Robin

The only human on the show, Christopher Robin, only socializes with the animals. All of the characters described above are based on Christopher Robin's stuffed animals. These are his only friends and his only interactions, which leads many to believe Christopher Robin has autism. Since autism is generally described as the inability to interact with others and social disabilities, it seems this is a viable claim. It has also been said that Christopher Robin may be Schizophrenic and that he imagines the characters. Both are possibilities.


Believe these ideas or not, but the theories are all too interesting to push aside.

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Demi Lovato Is The Example Of Why All Addiction IS A Disease, Celebrity Or Not

Addiction has been a popular debate topic for years now, but Demi Lovato's recent relapse is opening up a dialogue.

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By this time, you've probably already heard the news: Due to an alleged heroin overdose, Demi Lovato was found unresponsive on her home on Tuesday, July 24th, 2018. Her fans, though heartbroken, offered up their prayers and unwavering support to the artist. She's now awake but still hospitalized. Articles about her bravery and the struggles she's faced have flooded the internet ever since. They're right. Demi Lovato is brave.

Demi was bullied so much throughout her young school years, that she chose to graduate via the homeschool route. After she burst into stardom, the artist entered rehab for the first time at the age of 18 for bipolar disorder, bulimia, self-harming, and addiction. Unfortunately, she relapsed shortly afterward and went to a sober living facility for a year. She remained sober for six years (as of March 2018) after leaving the facility, which is an amazing feat.

"OK. People care about Demi's relapse. So what?"

Well, here's the kicker: Someone I love is an addict.

She's not famous. She's not a singer with millions of fans worldwide. No one is tweeting her condolences. No one is calling her brave for her sobriety. She's just a regular person just like you and me. What's the difference? Why is a celebrity relapsing any different than your uncle relapsing? Or your aunt? Or your cousin? Or anyone?

Why is addiction a disease when it's a celebrity, but it's a choice when it comes to everyone else?

If you've been active on any type of social media recently, you know this is a hot topic to argue about in Facebook comments. According to the Center on Addiction, addiction can be defined as "a complex disease of the brain and body that involves compulsive use of one or more substances". Some people suffer from addiction due to having the addiction passed on to them by their mothers who used the substances during their pregnancy while others have used the substances themselves. Regarding the latter, though it may have been the person's choice to use the substance, the addiction is still considered a disease and it should be treated as such.

21.5 million American adults per year are abusing substances. That's including celebrities and regular people. These numbers won't decrease without a little bit of compassion. It's hard to want to fix yourself when no one believes in you. Everyone deserves support.

If you or someone you know is abusing substances and in need of help, contact the Substance Abuse Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

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