Thursday, August 15, 2013


Last year, the American Society for Addiction Medicine adopted a new definition; that 'addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease.' Many specialists like myself, took issue with this definition. We were resistant because such a definition may negate personal responsibility. For example: no one sits on your chest, puts a funnel in your mouth and pours alcohol down your throat. Not too many people grab your arm and stick a needle in it to fill your system with heroin. The point is, that we each make a choice to drink and/or abuse drugs. We see an Opioid in someone's medicine cabinet and think..."hmmm. If I just take one, no one will notice and I could just try it." Or as a young person, we find alcohol in the house and sneak a drink - just because we can. We need to take responsibility for that initial action, as well as those that follow. That being said, there is more than one way to become an addict. A family history, or genetic predisposition makes us vulnerable to addiction. The "Over use over time theory" (McGowan 2005)is another way. The overuse of anything over a period of time effects brain chemistry. What about folks who receive medication for pain? Can they become addicted? THE ANSWER IS 'NO". They become dependent, but that is not addiction. When they use painkillers when the pain has ceased, they are on a slippery slope that will end in addiction. That is because the body and brain recognizes that which is pleasurable and wants more of it. So we use alcohol or drugs again - just one more time. The more we use, the more we need and then tolerance begins and we are inside a merry-go-round that is extremely difficult to jump off. The best way to end addiction is not to begin the process at all. Since that is unrealistic for most people, at least reflect on why you do certain behaviors. Do you drink because it makes you feel better or because you like the taste or because it helps you come out of your shell? Do you abuse medication or use illicit drugs so you can forget about troubles or because everyone else is doing it? Reflection is merely a first step. Honesty is part of the step as well. If you come home from work and have a drink everyday because it is the only way you can relax, you have a problem.If you smoke marijuana everyday for the same reason and have started to enjoy smoking alone, you have a big problem. If you are stealing from someone's medicine cabinet or a patient's med case you have a huge problem. RECOGNIZE IT! Don't stop - JUST GET HELP!!!!