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Is Addiction a Mental Illness?


Published: June 12, 2023

For centuries, addiction was perceived as a moral failing, a lack of willpower, or, at worst, a crime deserving punishment. However, our understanding of addiction has significantly evolved. Modern scientific research has shed light on addiction, revealing that it’s far more complex than previously thought.

Defining Addiction

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.

This definition clarifies two important points about addiction:

Chronic: Addiction doesn’t merely occur overnight. It’s a long-term disease that persists over time, often despite periods of remission.

Relapsing: Even after periods of abstinence, individuals with addiction may still experience periods of drug use or desire to use.

Addiction as a Mental Illness

The link between addiction and mental illness might not be apparent at first glance. However, on a deeper level, you’ll find numerous interconnected elements that tie these two realms together.

The Brain and Addiction

The core reason why addiction is classified as a mental illness lies in its relationship with the brain. Addiction fundamentally alters both the structure and functioning of the brain. These changes can lead to destructive behaviors and impact various aspects of a person’s life, including relationships, work, and overall health.

Research shows that addictive substances affect the brain’s reward circuit, which is part of the limbic system. The reward circuit is responsible for producing feelings of pleasure in response to certain stimuli, like food or social interaction. However, when subjected to addictive substances, this system gets rewired to prioritize drug use above all else.

The Shared Characteristics of Addiction and Other Mental Illnesses

Addiction shares several characteristics with other mental illnesses, including:

Chronic nature: Like other mental illnesses, addiction is chronic, often requiring long-term treatment and support for effective management.

Influence on behavior: Both addiction and mental illnesses can significantly influence a person’s behavior, relationships, and ability to function in daily life.

Risk factors: Addiction and other mental illnesses share common risk factors, including genetics, stress, and environmental influences.

The Road to Recovery

At Rockland Treatment Center, we believe with the right help and support, individuals suffering from addiction can reclaim their lives. Our center provides a nurturing environment where clients can cultivate the skills necessary to live a life free of substance dependence.

Our primary goal is to reduce symptom severity and provide individuals with the tools they need for sustainable recovery. We believe substance abusers are capable of change, and new thinking and skill development are integral to establishing healthier, more effective ways to live.

Our treatment process is tailored to each individual’s needs, with a dedicated team of professionals designing a unique treatment plan based on an initial comprehensive assessment.

Ready to Start Your Journey to Recovery?

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Rockland Treatment Center. We’re ready to support you on your journey to recovery, offering innovative, evidence-based treatments designed to help you regain control of your life. Contact us today, and let us guide you on your path to lasting recovery.

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