Drug Treatment: Exploring What Makes An Addiction an Illness

Drug TreatmentThe Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the standardized text and clinical reference used by psychologists and therapists across North America to diagnose their clients and assess whether they need drug treatment.

The manual includes the names, features, symptoms, and demographical information on all the recognized mental illnesses, including addictions. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) will published the fifth edition of the DSM in May of 2013, which was the culmination of a 14-year revision process.

The APA is a national medical specialty society whose more than 36,000 physician members specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses, including substance use disorders.

However, the field of psychology recognizes that there are other forms of addiction, not just those to alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamines, and other illicit drugs.

The idea of being addicted to the Internet, for example, might sound odd, yet the most recent edition of the DSM outlines a new definition of addiction. It includes a diagnosis for non-substance addictions, such as Internet use, and any other behavior that an individual has lost power over.

How Compulsive Behavior Can Contribute to Addiction

Losing power over behaving in a certain way, such as Internet use, gambling, shopping, or drinking alcohol, is the essence of addiction. A trigger in the brain creates a high and that high stimulates compulsive behavior. Furthermore, the high stimulates thinking and obsessing about the compulsive behavior.

The result of compulsive behavior include poor functioning at home or work, poor relationships, violence, and/or self-harm. If this is taking place and if a person is engaging in the compulsive behavior to the exclusion of other life-activities, then there could be an addiction.

Furthermore, there are eleven different criteria listed in the DSM that a clinician uses to determine the severity of an addiction and the need for drug treatment. The number of criteria present for a patient indicates the severity of the addictive disorder.

For example, 2-3 criteria indicate a mild disorder; 4-5 criteria indicate a moderate disorder; and 6 or more of the 11 criteria indicate a severe disorder.

DSM Disorder Criteria

  1. Taking the substance in larger amounts or for longer than the you meant to
  2. Wanting to cut down or stop using the substance but not managing to
  3. Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of the substance
  4. Cravings and urges to use the substance
  5. Not managing to do what you should at work, home or school, because of substance use
  6. Continuing to use, even when it causes problems in relationships
  7. Giving up important social, occupational or recreational activities because of substance use
  8. Using substances again and again, even when it puts the you in danger
  9. Continuing to use, even when the you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by the substance
  10. Needing more of the substance to get the effect you want (tolerance)
  11. Development of withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more of the substance.

Addiction is an Illness

Drug Treatment

Anyone who believes that they might be addicted to a behavior, drug, or alcohol, might learn about themselves when learning about what makes an addiction an illness.

Substance abuse addiction have both a physical and psychological component. Learning about each of these in detail can help a person grow and heal.

This sort of education can help someone stick to their sobriety, especially when they recognize that a craving might be coming from the pattern of compulsivity and might likely lead to harm.

The above information can indicate whether assistance from a mental health professional is necessary. Of course, if there is any suspicion that you or someone you know has an addiction, don’t hesitate, seek a psychologist today.


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