The Many Faces of Addiction

I attended the Haymarket Center’s 20th Annual Summer Institute on Addiction last week. One of the keynote speakers was Delbert Boone, an engaging presenter, who specializes in addiction and criminal justice. He began by saying that the number one cause of crime is addiction. The number one cause of domestic violence is addiction. The number one cause of car accidents is addiction. Addiction is often a factor in child abuse, unemployment, physical deterioration, having utilities cut off and a host of other problems. He further states that you either are under the influence, or suffer poor judgment as a consequence of addiction, or suffer the consequences of a family member’s addiction. Although I would like to see the statistics on these, he makes a point.

Addiction is a chronic, progressive disease if left untreated. It is characterized by loss of control. “It makes you do things you don’t want to do, and makes you think it was a good idea.” The dependence syndrome is a cluster of physiological, behavioral and cognitive phenomena in which the use of a substance takes on a much higher priority for a given individual than other behaviors that once had greater value. Dependence creates uncontrollable drug and alcohol craving that persists even in the face of extremely negative consequences.

“Treatment is about getting someone to look at something they don’t want to look at.” The addiction is vested in sustaining itself. Addiction will hide, camouflage, is cunning, baffling and powerful. It puts a blindfold over your eyes. The treatment goal is to remove the veneer to see the addiction.

Addiction is now understood to be a brain disease because scientific research has shown that alcohol and other drugs can change brain structure and function. Abstinence is not a matter of will power. Do we have willpower over diabetes or leukemia? No. Treatment requires life long management requiring a plan and the commitment to follow it.

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