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Understanding Addiction as a Chronic Disease: Modifying the Treatment Approach

Supporting Family Through Drug Detox and Addiction Treatment

Understanding Addiction as a Chronic Disease: Modifying the Treatment Approach

Although addiction has long been vilified as a decision or a moral failing, current studies have revealed that it is actually a chronic brain illness. Addiction is defined as obsessive drug seeking and use despite negative effects, according the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). How we approach treatment and assist persons with drug use disorders will be significantly impacted by our understanding of addiction as a chronic disease.

As a Chronic Disease

Due to the complicated condition of addiction, which affects the brain's reward system, it can be challenging for people to resist the impulse to use alcohol or drugs. According to research, addiction entails structural and functional changes in the brain that last long after a person stops taking drugs. Due to the changes that addiction causes to the body, it is sometimes referred to as a chronic disease, much like diabetes or heart disease, which likewise need continuous care and treatment.

Adapting the Treatment Strategy

Detoxification and short-term therapies, such inpatient rehabilitation programs, have traditionally been the main components of addiction therapy. But as we come to recognize addiction as a chronic illness, there is a growing realization that successful recovery requires long-term, continuous therapy. This covers counseling, medication-assisted therapy, and continuous support systems like 12-step groups.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

A proven strategy for treating drug use disorders, medication-assisted therapy (MAT) combines medication with counseling and behavioral treatments. It has been demonstrated that MAT is beneficial in lowering opioid usage, improving treatment retention, and enhancing outcomes for those with drug use disorders. Methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are among of the drugs utilized in MAT; they all function by lessening cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Behavioral Therapies

Addiction treatment also includes counseling and behavioral therapies such cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, and contingency management. These treatments support people in recognizing harmful patterns of behavior, altering them, learning coping mechanisms, and improving their general wellbeing.

Ongoing Support

Addiction recovery is a lifetime journey that calls for constant assistance. This might involve joining peer support groups or 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Additionally, family engagement and support during therapy is critical.

Addiction as a Chronic Disease

Removing the stigma attached to drug use disorders and supporting successful treatment need an understanding of addiction as a chronic disease. We can turn our attention away from blame and guilt and toward prevention, treatment, and recovery if we see addiction as a chronic disease. It is crucial to promote addiction research going forward and to give individuals in need of it more access to evidence-based care.


National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021). Understanding Drug Use and Addiction DrugFacts. Retrieved from

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019). Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). Retrieved from

American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2019). What is the ASAM Criteria? Retrieved from

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