Understanding Chronic Relapse & How to Treat It Delphi

drug or alcohol addiction is a chronic relapsing illness

They may mistakenly think that those who use drugs lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop their drug use simply by choosing to. In reality, drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will. Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to. Fortunately, researchers know more than ever about how drugs affect the brain and have found treatments that can help people recover from drug addiction and lead productive lives. Simply put, teenage boys are at higher risk of chronic relapse because they’re more impressionable.

Overwhelmed by flash floods of chemical messenger dopamine, the reward circuit begins to downregulate; MRI scans show progressive decreasing brain activity. Over time, tolerance develops — no amount of drug can recreate that first high. Pleasure is replaced by craving and substance use just postpones withdrawal. Companion systems critical to judgment, motivation and memory falter, leading to impaired emotional response, interpersonal conflict and poor impulse control.

Indeed, concerns were raised about setting the diagnostic standard too low because of the issue of potentially conflating a low-severity SUD with addiction [116]. In scientific and clinical usage, addiction typically refers to individuals at a moderate or high severity of SUD. This is consistent with the fact that moderate-to-severe SUD has the closest correspondence with the more severe diagnosis in ICD [117,118,119].

More recently, a reduction in these quantitative levels has been validated as treatment endpoints [113]. Addiction has many characteristics in common with other chronic diseases, including the fact that some of the contributing factors are believed to run in families, and that environmental conditions can trigger the onset and determine the course of the disease. Also, as with other chronic diseases, treatments and management options are available, although there is no cure, and many of the treatments involve lifestyle changes. When someone suffers from addiction, they have a compulsion to keep using a substance, whether it be drugs or alcohol, in spite of negative consequences they experience as a result of that use.

drug or alcohol addiction is a chronic relapsing illness

Fundamentally, we consider that these terms represent successive dimensions of severity, clinical “nesting dolls”. Not all individuals consuming substances at hazardous levels have an SUD, but a subgroup do. Not all individuals with a SUD are addicted to the drug in question, but a subgroup are.

Author & Researcher services

That said, our tendency to attribute undesirable behaviours to the moral failings of others, whilst blissfully turning a blind eye to our own overindulgence, should prompt us to be more mindful of our habits. Greater self-reflection of the underlying biases that drive our perceptions may help us to make wiser decisions and to avoid the risks of problematic drinking and the increasing tendency to self-medicate. The primary bias in risk perception refers to the tendency to overestimate uncommon risks and underestimate common risks. One of the seminal figures in risk research, Paul Slovic, found that we typically overestimate the risk of dying from homicide or natural disaster, but underestimate the likelihood of dying due to diabetes, cancer or stroke. If you ever helped a loved one get treatment, you know that it is difficult to convince an addict to check into a center and it’s a struggle for them to make it through the program.

  • To reflect this complex nature of addiction, we have assembled a team with expertise that spans from molecular neuroscience, through animal models of addiction, human brain imaging, clinical addiction medicine, to epidemiology.
  • The disease of addiction shares that characteristic, whether due to opioids, meth, alcohol, cocaine, benzodiazepines, nicotine, cannabis, gambling, pornography, social media, or any other substance or entity that can become all-consuming.
  • The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes.
  • Even though many Americans are in recovery today and many more are battling addiction and trying to get sober, it continues to be a constant struggle that goes on for the rest of their lives in most cases.

Antidepressants can help even levels of these chemicals and can help relieve symptoms of depression. However, for the best results, your doctor will likely treat them together. The “burst” of energy from alcohol can be a welcome relief against some symptoms. Alcohol use disorder and depression are two conditions that often occur together. What’s more, one can make the other worse in a cycle that’s pervasive and problematic if not addressed and treated.

Hematologic diseases

Treatment approaches tailored to each patient’s drug use patterns and any co-occurring medical, mental, and social problems can lead to continued recovery. Importantly, this is not simply a matter of semantics, as a definition of addiction as a chronic relapsing disorder may actually have iatrogenic effects. Furthermore, it is entirely plausible that the definition’s dire fatalism could actually undermine an individual’s motivation. Much of the critique targeted at the conceptualization of addiction as a brain disease focuses on its original assertion that addiction is a chronic and relapsing condition. Epidemiological data are cited in support of the notion that large proportions of individuals achieve remission [27], frequently without any formal treatment [28, 29] and in some cases resuming low risk substance use [30]. These spontaneous remission rates are argued to invalidate the concept of a chronic, relapsing disease [4].

Diagnosis was stable in severe, treatment-seeking cases, but not in general population cases of alcohol dependence. There are a number of reasons why it matters whether or not we adopt a chronic relapsing disorder model of alcohol dependence for clinical care. A concentration on the chronic relapsing nature of alcohol dependence may lead to a preponderance of resources going towards those with severe dependence and other co-occurring health (including mental health) issues.

drug or alcohol addiction is a chronic relapsing illness

Substance abuse counselors can help families understand the complex road to recovery, and offer support for the difficult journey ahead. However, it is worth noting that in the U.S., alcohol kills more people than all other drugs combined. Habits may be changing, with recent trends suggesting that Gen Z members are drinking less than people in previous generations. Whether we choose to drink, moderate, or abstain, it is important to reflect and assess our own habits for what they are and for what they contribute to our health.

Finding Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

However, a heritability of addiction of ~50% indicates that DNA sequence variation accounts for 50% of the risk for this condition. Once whole genome sequencing is readily available, it is likely that it will be possible to identify most of that DNA variation. For clinical purposes, those polygenic scores will of course not replace an understanding of the intricate web of biological and social factors that promote or prevent expression of addiction in an individual case; rather, they will add to it [49].

Notably, maturing out is not specific to alcohol use disorder and was first observed in the context of opioid use disorder (Winick, 1962). Certainly maturing out of addiction without the need for formal treatment is not consistent with a chronic relapsing definition. Importantly, these findings translate into very large numbers of individuals. In the U.S. alone, 25 million Americans https://sober-home.org/ were estimated to currently be in recovery in the recent U.S. Collectively, a sizable body of evidence suggests that, rather than a chronic pattern of relapse, stable remission is a common outcome and may in fact be the most common course. The most widely used definitions of drug addiction are of the condition having a chronic course that is typically characterized by relapse.

How Does Addiction Develop in the Brain?

To reflect this complex nature of addiction, we have assembled a team with expertise that spans from molecular neuroscience, through animal models of addiction, human brain imaging, clinical addiction medicine, to epidemiology. What brings us together is a passionate commitment to improving the lives of people with substance use problems through science and science-based treatments, with empirical evidence as the guiding principle. The paper, now cited almost 2000 times, put forward a position that has been highly influential in guiding the efforts of researchers, and resource allocation by funding agencies. A subsequent 2000 paper by McLellan et al. [2] examined whether data justify distinguishing addiction from other conditions for which a disease label is rarely questioned, such as diabetes, hypertension or asthma. It concluded that neither genetic risk, the role of personal choices, nor the influence of environmental factors differentiated addiction in a manner that would warrant viewing it differently; neither did relapse rates, nor compliance with treatment.

Is Addiction Really a Chronic Relapsing Disorder?

Throughout his ordeal, Long was arrested, and his partner also dealt with a bevy of consequences. Over time, he learned that his recovery was different, and he often dealt with feelings of guilt. Different types of medications may be useful at different stages of treatment to help a patient stop abusing drugs, stay in treatment, and avoid relapse. Relapse does not mean that treatment has failed, in the same way, that an asthma attack does not mean that asthma treatment has failed.

Contact my Recovery Source for assistance in finding the treatment that is right for you. Overcoming addiction is not easy and the possibility of relapse makes it even more difficult to reach your goals. But the right rehab center will give you the help you need to get sober and stay sober. eco sober house rating This helps them adjust to sober living and deal with stressors in a healthy manner. Finally, we argue that progress would come from integration of these scientific perspectives and traditions. Wilson has argued more broadly for greater consilience [109], unity of knowledge, in science.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *