Guest Article by: Christopher Knippers, Ph.D.
Addiction (or, Substance Use Disorder) is an epidemic in our culture, and in most of the world. It affects all races, socioeconomic groups, and levels of intelligence. Most of current western medicine believes that it is a “disease” that is based in brain abnormalities and biochemical abnormalities. Brain scans show that addicts’ brains respond much differently to a mood-altering substance like alcohol or other drugs than do the brains of non-addicts. Also, there is evidence that the body chemistry of an addict processes mood-altering substances in a different way than does the body chemistry of a non-addict. There are also psychological/emotional dysfunctions associated with the disease, such as extreme (often hidden)insecurity, self-centeredness (narcissism), and impairment of ability to correctly perceive another person’s emotions.
People with the disease have a very basic subconscious belief that their drug of choice is essential to their survival, therefore they will do most anything to obtain it and continue to use it despite severe consequences to their personal lives or the lives of others.They continue to use drugs with the help of “enablers” (it only takes one), who help them cover up the consequences of their use, pick up the pieces of their destructive behavior, and in extreme cases help the addict obtain their substance; all in the name of love.
The addict will discontinue use only when they themselves are fully “ready.” That can come when the consequences are overwhelming and all enablers finally disappear. Recovery from the disease involves changing everything about the way the substance user lives life and the way they perceive life and themselves. The support of other addicts in recovery is essential in the process. Fortunately, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are available everywhere.