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Addiction, Treatment and Recovery

The Disease Of Addiction


The disease of addiction has a target organ known as the mid brain. The cause is regulatory dysfunction of a neurotransmitter called dopamine.  The effect is a common group of symptoms seen in each and every alcoholic and addict known to have the disease of dependence:  loss of control, craving, and persistent use despite adverse consequences. Many alcoholics and addicts have been accused of selfishness, of choosing their behaviors for a reward or pleasure, since that portion of the brain targeted by alcohol has often been called the reward or pleasure center. This impression of hedonistic behavior on the part of the addict has for a long time caused inappropriate judgment, bringing shame to the one who suffers with this disease.

The family is very affected by the disease of addiction because the alcoholic or the addict will violate so many boundaries to get to his or her drug of choice.  Often they cast aside job, family, health, marriage and their notion of a Higher Power to get to the top of their survival pyramid––their drug of choice.

The disease of addiction, like other diseases, is chronic and organic. It sites the brain as its target organ. It relapses. It remits. It is cunning, baffling and powerful, but treated one day at a time, lasting recovery is the promise for each and every alcoholic or addict afflicted. All that is required is that they have the willingness to take the first steps.


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21 Responses to “The Disease of Addiction”

  1. John C. says:

    hi there , every so often the Betty Ford Center comes back into to the attention of media , etc. over here in the UK …. years ago i was advised to stop drinking / drugging, yea yea i,d say like every other addict , i didnt want to hear all that , not realising that my life had started to go wrong long before , i cant really talk now my sons here . and lots of images are starting to surface , but if its ok i shall write again soon , i hope you are all as well as can be, take care … john xx

  2. Pepe S. says:

    Hola a todos los adictos del mundo, deseo para todos un despertar espiritual pleno. Gracias Betty Ford Center, por tus aportaciones a la recuperacion.
    Translation: Hello to all addicts in the world, I wish for everyone a full spiritual awakening. Thanks Betty Ford Center, for your contributions to the recovery.

  3. Arturo says:

    I was very pleased to read the article, “The Disease of Addiction.” I entered rehab 98 days ago. Rehab was the most precious life experience for me. I faced fear head on. My hardest part of recovery was stopping. Recovery is literally day to day. I went from obsessively thinking about alcohol and wanting it, to obsessively thinking about it, to then it just being a thought that briefly popped into my mind and leaving after I pushed it back out of my head.
    This article helped me understand a bit more about addiction. Thanks for sharing this article!

  4. Betty Ford Center says:

    Thank you, Arturo. We feel that it is very important that people understand addiction is a disease. We wish you the best in your recovery.

  5. Heather says:

    Hi, I just want to say my brother has a meth addiction and he has lost everything because of it … he knows he needs help and he wants help unfortunately the cost is so expensive that he hasn’t been able to get that help. He leaves tomorrow for 8 yrs in prison and it hurts so bad to know that i am losing 8 yrs with him because of his addiction. I really wish there was a program that could help him … prison time may or may not sober him up because we all know drugs in prison are very easy to get, and with an addiction it’s more then just sobering up. I understand addiction; a lot of people don’t, they just judge call them junkies or say the world would be better off without this person … well, maybe to them, but to me, I miss my brother and I love him. I will never turn my back on himl he is my brother and I love him, addiction or not. I just pray he finds peace in his heart and the help he needs before we lose him forever…

  6. Bobbi says:

    To Heather:
    My son is like your brother, but thankfully he has not been sent to prison; after reading your post, I feel very bad for him. Prison is not the place for addicts, but unfortunately because of our system, that is where a lot of them end up. We have battled with my son for almost 20 years from alcoholism and drug addiction. He is 40 years old, and it has taken a toll on our lives. But just like you said, we love him, he has a disease, and we will never abandon him. “I will never turn my back on him, I love him, addiction or not.” He is a good person and would give his shirt to anyone who needed it. We keep him in our home because the alternative would just be too hard to bear (if he had to go on the street to live, he wouldn’t make it. I guarantee that!) So don’t listen to the doctors who say, “Just throw him out!” He will learn when he hits rock bottom.” He’s hit rock bottom so many times, and they call us enablers! Just keep loving your brother and give him support in prison – its all you can do right now – bless you and your brother! Bobbi

  7. Calvin says:

    As a physician with a history of addiction to opioids, I feel I’m caught between a rock and a hard place. Approximately 10 years ago I self reported to my medical board and was sent into a 30 day inpatient treatment program. I then entered into the medical board’s aftercare program for five years which included random drug testing and 12 step meetings. I remained clean and sober for nearly ten years until going through a very painful divorce. This was truly the low point of my life and I made the foolish decision to use again. I was cited for DUI and because the charges were dismissed I decided not to report it. I have remained clean and sober since but that one event which occurred over two years ago, I may be forced into long term treatment. I feel really good right now. I’ve been attending meetings regularly, getting counseling, and have had no relapses since. I just hope and pray that the medical board will see this as just an isolated event in the midst of what was essentially a nervous breakdown and will not force me into treatment. That would devastate my practice and my finances, not to mention my ability to earn a living…

  8. Dan says:

    I am 26 years old and have been in treatment two different times. The first time, 3 weeks, I was introduced to suboxone, it wasn’t addictive, safe, and a miracle drug. This was when i was 19. Well when I was 24, I entered again to come off this stuff called Suboxone. Now I am 26, still using Suboxone prescribed to me! I am at a point in my life where it’s either give it all or have nothing!! I need advice on what I should do, not to get into all the details I have a lot at stake!

  9. Betty Ford Center says:

    Suboxone is an opiate and can be very helpful when used in the right context for short periods of time. You can wean off suboxone, but I suggest you get help doing it. The first step is to ask your physician about how to go about it and what resources you may need in the process. There is help for you out there.

  10. Beth says:

    My husband has been addicted to opiates for the past 15 years. It has destroyed my life, but I stay because I don’t want the shame and stigma of a 2nd divorce. Finally, two weeks ago he started IOP therapy. The problems for me, now, are the irrational feelings of being excluded. I feel like he would never stop for me, but now he signed a contract with a 26 year old therapist (he is 63) and he’s willing to stay abstinent. He will share and be truthful with a group of strangers, but all I have had for years is lies. I feel like somehow his therapy is good for him but bad for me. I have never heard anyone express these feelings, and I feel so embarrassed by them but I can’t suppress them either.

  11. Betty Ford Center says:

    Beth – If you get to AlAnon meetings, you will immediately meet others who felt just as you do right now, and you will hear solutions.
    These meetings are held all over the world; here is a link to follow to get you started: http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/.
    Take care.

  12. Rob says:

    Thanks for all the posts here.
    This is new territory for me as I have had very supportive friends, family and work associates. I have just signed up for the 8 week outpatient program finally looking in the mirror and saying “enough.” My horror of choice – binge drinking and opiates. I think as long as people express these feelings it can be therapeutic. Good luck to you all as I find my path to sobriety!

  13. Betty Ford Center says:

    We wish you well as you begin your path to a new life.

  14. R sue says:

    Hi my boyfriend of 15 years just went through rehab and I am trying to learn more about what he’s going through and what I can do to help him out and how I can be more supportive to him. This site has helped out a lot. I wish every one the best.
    xoxo everyone needs love

  15. Addie L says:

    Dear R.Sue,
    It is a very positive step that your long-time boy friend went through rehab and hopefully is attending after-care counseling and 12 Step meetings. If you are attending 12 Step meetings yourself and/or receiving counseling for co-dependents, your efforts to understand what your significant other is facing will be rewarded from the helpful information you glean. Both my husband and daughter are recovered alcohol/drug addicts. My husband has 29 years of recovery and my daughter has 17. I am a recovered co-dependent of 29 years also. I have written a book titled “It’s Okay To Be Dumfounded, Just Don’t Stay That Way!” From Co-Addiction, Addiction to Recovery…doing whatever it takes to live a healthy life free from addiction which tells my story, my husband’s, and the steps we took to recovery. I think it has information that’s “right-on” to help you.
    The Best is yet to Come:)
    Addie L.

  16. Darryl A. says:

    First and foremost, I am a recovering addict. I was addicted to crack cocaine for many years and went to prison serveral times behind my addiction. I had a lot of pain and suffering behind addiction. But the most difficult thing was forgiving myself and smashing my pride and ego. I had to admit that I had a problem. GOD IS SO, SO GOOD TO ME. THANK GOD AND PRAY, PRAY, PRAY!

  17. Lois says:

    My brother died yesterday. He was going through alcohol withdrawals and collapsed at home. We can’t repeat enough times that withdrawal needs to be supervised inpatient by medical doctors trained in addictions. My brother quit and started up again every month. He just did not quit “in time” to forestall end-stage physical deterioration ie seizures, acute pancreatic disease, etc. I know this warning is likely not enough to kick-start anyone’s road to sobriety. As with my brother, he knew he was dying, but he still believed the lies his addiction told him.

  18. Betty Ford Center says:

    This is a very sad, powerful description of the hold addiction can have. Thank you for sharing this – you never know who might read it and make a decision that changes the course of his/her life.
    We send strength to your family during this time.

  19. Trying to hold on says:

    Thank you for this very helpful article. I’m a heroin and cocaine addict, and it’s absolutely destroying the amazing relationship I used to have with my boyfiend of 5 years. I go into inpatient next Thursday I’m terrified..but I realize it’s something I have to do to get better and to hopefully save what little I have after burning so many bridges.

    My question is to anyone who may know of more articles or books that I can show my boyfriend for him to get a better understanding of the disease concept. I’ve read a lot of articles on here that debate it, but I truly believe it is a disease.

    Thank you all.

  20. Frank H. says:

    I ran across this statement recently. What does your Center say about this? Thank you.
    It is from the Narcotics Anonymous Step Working Guides (“Copyright ~ 1998, World Service Office, Inc. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.”
    The Disease of Addiction
    What makes us addicts is the disease of addiction-not the drugs, not our behavior, but our disease. There is something within us that makes us unable to control our use of drugs.This same “something” also makes us prone to obsession and compulsion in other areas of our lives. How can we tell when our disease is active? When we become trapped in obsessive, compulsive, self-centered routines, endless loops that lead nowhere but to physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional decay.

  21. Tammy G says:

    My son is currently serving 60 days in jail for his 3rd DUI. Alcoholism has almost destroyed his life. He has made drastic changes in his life since he got the last one. AA and his sponsor have been key in his recovery. He is loking forward to getting of jail and getting started in his new life of sobriety.
    Unfortunately his father is an alcoholic as well but refuses to acknowledge it and get any treatment. It has destroyed our marriage and any relationships he has had as well as his work life. He is currently unemployed as he quit his last job because “they we screwing with my money”. He imagines all sorts of slights against him by everyone in his life. It is very sad to say, but he will most likely end up alone because he has driven everyone away from him.

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