Addiction has been identified as a brain disease that develops compulsive behaviors with negative health consequences.
Research shows that brains become altered with drug usage, and these changes are difficult to reverse. Drugs can acutely affect mood, memory, perception, and emotional states through structural and chemical changes in the brain. The changes in the brain are most likely responsible for the long-lasting behavioral changes that distort cognitive and emotional functions.
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Addiction begins with the voluntary behavior of using drugs and addicts must take some responsibility for their rehabilitation from drug abuse. Having a brain disease does not absolve the addict of responsibility for his or her behavior, but explains why the condition is difficult to reverse.
Clinical studies support the view that addicts may move into a different physical and mental state, and it appears that addiction treatment may require a modified approach that can improve efficacy.
Drug rehab centers can focus on treating dramatic withdrawal symptoms of drug and alcohol addiction, by managing them with appropriate medications, but it appears that these brain diseases are not simply biological in nature.
The striking difference between addiction and other brain diseases such as Alzheimer's and clinical depression is that addiction begins voluntarily, and not everyone who uses drugs becomes addicted.
Individuals differ substantially in how easily they become addicted, and in their preference for particular substances. Consistent with the biobehavioral nature of addiction, individual differences result from a combination of environmental, biological, and particularly genetic factors.
Scientists have discovered genes that may be responsible for addiction and it is estimated that genetics may be largely responsible for the susceptibility to becoming addicts.
Addiction genes are biological differences or gene mutations that may make someone more or less vulnerable to addiction. It may be more difficult for people with these gene mutations to quit once they start.
Or severe withdrawal symptoms that can only be alleviated with more of the drug intake may develop. Factors that make it harder to become addicted also may be genetic as many individuals appear to be affected differently by the same drug.