The Disease of Addiction
Addiction manifests itself in many forms and there are many different types of addiction that are recognized in today’s society. Some of the more common addiction types are formed when a person becomes dependent on alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex or any other compulsive or pathological behaviors. In this article we will be looking at addiction as a disease, the different stages of the disease including treatment, the addiction cycle and the wheel of change.
The following video serves as a good introduction to understanding addiction and substance use disorder and starting with the actual addiction definition, sets up this page nicely.
Various theories about drug addiction, alcoholism and addiction in general have emerged over the times and the most commonly accepted one happens to be the Disease Model.
Addiction basically is a disease that has certain causes, symptoms, and that can be treated in certain ways. Moreover, the disease also has different stages, starting from the adaptive or early stage and right till relapse. In between this there are other stages, the middle, the final or late stage and the treatment stage.
The term “Disease” is not popularly used these days since it creates an impression of being unwashed or dirty. However, it is important to understand its relation to the addiction terms. It is “Dis – Eased”, which suggests a mind which is “Not at Ease.”
The following video shows just how powerful this disease of addiction really is.
Though it is not totally necessary to describe each of the stages, understanding them would surely be helpful.
In this article I hope to describe the signs and symptoms of each stage in the addiction process as well as exploring some treatment options.
- Adaptive, Early or the Starting Stage
- The Middle Stage
- The Late or Final Stage
- Addiction Treatment
- Relapse or Returning to Drug Abuse or Drinking
1. The Early or Starting Stage of Addiction
The symptoms of the early or the starting stages of alcoholism or addiction are an increased tolerance towards the drugs or the alcohol. The body also starts getting adapted to these substances, but these physical changes might not be noticeable.
As there is an increase in tolerance, the addict is able to consume larger quantities of drug or alcohol, and still there is hardly any effect and the person can continue to function quite normally. This tolerance is not a result of the addict taking too much drugs or drinking too much alcohol, but because the addict can now consume a greater quantity owing to the physical changes that his or her body is now experiencing.
It is not easy to detect the beginning stage. As far as appearance is concerned an addict might easily be able to take a large quantity of drugs or drink lots of alcohol, and yet there will be no noticeable signs of intoxication, hangovers or any other ill-effects. It is difficult to differentiate between a starting stage addict and a non-addict who might drink heavily or might consume drugs only occasionally.
Even while at work there will hardly be any noticeable impact of the drugs on the addict’s conduct or performance, so even here it is very difficult to identify. In the early stage the addict will not notice any problem arising from his or her drug or alcohol dependence and thus if anybody would make attempts to show him or her possible side effects, he or she would likely laugh it off. The addict does not even have any idea of what is happening within his or her body.
The video directly below explains the stage of early addiction.
2. The Middle Addiction Stage
Though there is not a very big difference between the beginning and the middle addiction stage, but certain characteristics certainly hint at the beginning of a new stage.
The benefits or pleasures that the addict was so long deriving from taking drugs or alcohol is now replaced by some destructive aspects. Earlier taking drug or drinking alcohol was just to enjoy a high but now it is taken to bear and fight the difficulties and pain and that earlier drinking and drug consuming has resulted in.
Dependence is one of the noticeable symptoms of the middle stage. The body of the addict starts getting used to a higher amount of drugs in the starting stage. Together with getting used to higher amount of drugs, the body starts displaying withdrawal symptoms when it does not get alcohol or drugs.
Craving is yet another characteristic that is noticeable in the middle stage. The drug or alcohol addicts, at this stage, have developed a strong urge towards taking drugs or alcohol, and controlling this urge becomes very difficult. With the tolerance and physical dependence of the addict increasing it becomes almost impossible for the addict to control taking drugs or drinking alcohol, and he or she keeps on craving the same.
Losing control is the middle stage’s third noticeable characteristic. The addict is no more able to limit his or her alcohol consuming or drug taking times, places and patterns to an extent that is socially acceptable. It is due to the decrease in tolerance and increase in withdrawal symptoms that the addict now suffers from. It now becomes difficult for the addict to handle high amount of alcohol or drugs as he or she earlier could, but still needs a higher amount just to avoid withdrawal.
Blackouts are also one of the characteristics of the middle stage. The addict or alcoholic, as you might be assuming, does not pass out while taking drugs or alcohol. The addict does function very normally but fails to remember what he or she had seen or done. It becomes difficult for the addict to remember these things because his or her brain either stored memories improperly or did not store it at all. Such blackouts might also be seen in the beginning stages of addiction.
In the middle stages the harm starts getting noticed. The addict has to fight withdrawal symptoms, lack of control and cravings. Even during work it becomes quite evident because of: being absent regularly, poor performance, improper behavior with other workers, lack of concentrations, accidents, improper demeanor and overall appearance, and a higher sick leave usage. At this point the addict might have to suffer from disciplinary action in his or her workplace.
The video directly below explains the stage of middle addiction.
3. The Late or Final Stage of Addiction
At the final deteriorative or the late stage the damage that the body suffered owing to the toxic effects of alcohol or drugs clearly gets noticed, and the addict now starts suffering from many different health concerns. It definitely is the most disturbing and difficult stage of addiction.
In the final stages the addict might be seriously ill, might always be mentally confused, or might keep on taking drugs or alcohol too frequently. The regular consumption of drugs or alcohol largely affects the vital organs of the addict and owing to this the addict now suffers from various psychological and physical problems. The ability of the addict’s body to fight diseases or health problems lowers greatly, and he or she suffers from an extremely unstable mental condition.
There are various health problems that the drug and alcohol addict starts suffering from at this stage and some of them are kidney failure, heart failure, hepatitis, fatty liver, liver cirrhosis, malnutrition, brain damage, pancreatitis and infections in the respiratory system. Some of these health problems are reversible.
Even after knowing about the various side effects and difficulties that regular consumption of drugs or alcohol can bring about, why does an addict or alcoholic still continues with his or her ways? The answer here is very simple. When in the beginning stages, the tolerance of the addict is increasing, and this makes him her believe that he or she is not at all sick. When the addict reaches the middle stage he she starts getting dependent on alcohol or drug without even realizing. All that the addict knows is if he or she continues taking drug or alcohol then he or she will not have to suffer from withdrawal symptoms. So just to avoid the troubles and pain of withdrawal the addict keeps continuing with his or her addiction. When the addict actually reaches the final stage he or she mostly is irrational and does not even have the ability to decipher what is actually happening.
Together with suffering from the effects the various changes brings about, the addict also has to face the strongest outcome of addiction, which is denial. The addict never agrees to the fact that he or she has a problem, and in fact he or she will most likely deny the fact. Now, this denial has a very important role to play. If he or she agreed to the fact the there is a problem, he or she would probably ask for help when suffering from the various consequences that taking drugs or drinking alcohol brings about. Though denial cannot be said to be a physical disorder or one of the physical symptoms of addiction, but it definitely does describe the way the addict thinks or behaves, and is indeed real.
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