No, addiction is not curable. There are many ways to treat symptoms of drug use and prevent drug abuse, but there is no definitive cure. There is no pill, no therapy that will make a person not an addict. Addiction is a lifelong disease, just like mental illness.
A person may learn how to manage their disease and enter periods of sobriety, but the risk of relapse is always present. This is why it’s important that former drug users do not experiment with other substances than the substance they sought treatment for.
Not Everyone Agrees
There are conflicting opinions on this topic in the medical community. Many people believe that addiction is a disease of the brain. This is because of the way drugs affect a person’s brain and it’s plasticity, or the brain’s ability to change structurally or physiologically over time as a result of experience. Which, is just a fancy way of saying that the brain can rewire itself. Drugs cause a decrease in plasticity and alter the way the brain learns new habits.
Opponents of this theory suggest that saying addiction is a brain disease lends to the idea that a person is not in control of thought processes or behaviors, but rather are controlled by their brain’s chemicals. This is particularly harmful when it comes to addiction recovery because it could be a way to negate responsibility for one’s actions and live in denial that they have a problem.
Opponents also push the idea that considering addiction as a brain disease overlooks the fact that many people use drugs to cope, which means there is an underlying condition needing to be addressed which is very important to designing individual treatments.
A Closer Look
But, let’s look at that idea in-depth. How can addiction be overlooked as caused by underlying conditions and also be cured? If mental illnesses cannot be cured, then how can addiction that is caused by trauma or mental illness be cured? If people are using drugs to cope with psychological issues or trauma, it can lead to constant relapsing, especially if those issues are not being addressed.
The reason why this is important is that many opponents of addiction as a disease believe people can be cured without clinical help. Therefore, if addiction is caused by underlying psychological issues and those issues are not being addressed or treated, then how can that addiction be cured?
Another theory as to why addiction has no cure is that drugs reduce the brain’s plasticity, which is true. Research published in the journal Science in 2010 shows the correlation between long-term drug use and the synapses’ ability to reduce their activity under the effect of certain stimulations. It plays a major role in the ability to develop new memories and flexible behavior. Dopamine is crucial in that process. It is a neurotransmitter, which means it makes connections between synapses and nerve or muscle fibers.
When a person uses drugs, the brain’s production of dopamine increases to a quantity that is not reproduced by introducing healthy stimuli like joyful activities or eating. After long-term drug use, the brain seeks out that stimuli habitually. Therefore, drug use becomes a learned behavior. It takes extensive therapy to deprogram the brain from unhealthy behaviors and thought processes. Drug abuse directly alters the brain’s functioning in that respect.
However, opponents of this theory say that drug use doesn’t physiologically change the brain in a way that is incurable. They believe that a person can make healthy lifestyle changes on their own without the need of clinical help. And while this may be true some of the time, it is not a theory that fits all drug users. Remember, we are not talking about casual drug use but a full addiction.
Furthermore, it is very irresponsible to advise that people can gain sobriety without clinical help because some substances, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines can cause fatal withdrawal symptoms. For these users, not seeking clinical help is not an option.
There are many things to consider when contemplating if addiction is curable. For one, there needs to be an assessment of how addicted a person is to a substance and even what substance they are using. Some substances tend to be more addicting than others. A person’s genetics also factor in addiction and recovery.
For instance, alcoholism can be a learned trait in the right environment. If a child grows up in a home with an alcoholic parent who doesn’t recognize their addiction, it leads to an acceptance of excessive alcohol use. This is troubling because it is a trait that can be handed down through generations.
Even though the medical community can not agree on addiction as a curable disease, there is a shift in public attitude and Northstar Transitions is here to see that you receive the care and support you need. Many recovered addicts will use verbiage such as, “I am a recovering alcoholic,” or “I am a recovering addict.” Mainly because addicts know that there is no cure for their addiction, only lifelong management of symptoms and behaviors. This isn’t to say there is no hope for staying sober. It really depends on the individual to maintain sobriety and healthy living post-treatment. If you or a loved one is shrugging with a substance use disorder, Northstar Transitions is here to help. Call us now at 1-303-558-6400.