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Addiction as a Mental Health Issue

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Every year when the holidays come around families get together to celebrate and enjoy the company of others. The odds are that there is at least one person in every family that tends to celebrate more than the rest of the family. People have all kinds of crazy stories about some drunk uncle almost burning down the Christmas tree. This can become a problem when the uncle is not only celebrating on the holidays, but rather turning into drunk uncle each and every day. Most people do not like to admit if their family member/s have an addiction problem. An on going issue with addiction is the argument to whether or not it should be considered a medical/mental health condition. Years ago no one would have said that addiction is a medical issue but in the recent years this idea has started to shift. For this paper I will begin by explaining what addiction is and why I chose to research it. Then I will show how addiction is starting to be viewed as a medical/mental health condition. Finally, explore any alternative to the typical rehabilitation centers that are currently being used.

First I want to begin by briefly explaining why I decided to focus my research around addiction. Growing up my entire life my father was an alcoholic. As a child I had no idea why my dad would sleep during the day, miss my important events, or even forget to pick me up from school. When I was about eleven years old I had to see my dad get arrested in front of my own house for driving under the influence of alcohol. Still I never realized the severity until I got older and started to understand what was going on. As I got older I started to resent my father because I never understood how he could not stop drinking. I thought to myself seriously how hard can it be to not take a drink? Thankfully my dad was able to become sober for about five years, but recently feel back into his old patterns. During this past summer my dad totaled two cars and got two DUIs. Thankfully no one was physically hurt but I could see the emotional toll it was having on my family. This is why I wanted to research into why people continue to abuse when they know they are hurting the people they love.

Addiction is the most common results of intrapersonal abuse, or the misuse of objects or substances that were originally created for one purpose, such as entertainment or healing (Gladding, 2013, p. 408). Addiction occurs when excessive amounts of time and effort are being devoted to the object or substance (p. 408). This is important because people tend to forget that addiction can actually pertain to more than just alcohol and drugs. Once you hear the word addict, it is hard think of anything other than some drugged up homeless man or woman begging for money. Society has this negative idea that addicts are just drunks/druggies who cannot say no to a drink or hit. What about all the people who have these same compulsive behaviors by committing the same amount of excessive time and effort towards things such as gambling, eating, shopping, working, exercising, as well as internet and sexual compulsions, (p. 408). As you can see addiction is so wide spread that it has to be more than just the lack of self-control.

In this case I will mainly focus on addiction to alcohol and drugs. As mentioned above the intrapersonal addictions such as drinking, have a physiological quality to them. Gladding states that, "Physiological abuse is to use substances, such as alcohol or drugs, to excess so that a person is not able to function. To be physiologically addicted is to have a physiological dependence on substances characterized by withdrawal symptoms should substances be stopped suddenly," (p. 408). As you can see the addicts body becomes physically and chemically dependent on the alcohol or drugs. The person's body will go into shock and they start to have negative symptoms of withdrawals. In the past people would argue that these types of addictions have nothing to do with the person's body rather their mind. Daniel Weinrich wrote a dissertation in which he included a section from Narcotics Anonymous that stats, "We were forced to survive any way that we could. We manipulated people and tried to control everything around us. We lied; we stole, cheated and sold ourselves. We had to have drugs regardless of the cost, (2005, p.6). To me that does not sound like a person that has zero self-control, rather someone with some serious medical/mental health issues. An addict understands what the consequences are yet continues to hurt themselves and the people they love. If all an addict had to do was say no, and all of his or her problems would go away, then there wouldn't be a single addict in the world. The reason is because addiction is so much more than self-control. Yet we still have people such as Dominic Lawson a writer for the Independent who wrote an article about addiction. When he asked a self-proclaimed food addict if they felt it was a medical condition, they replied, "The plain truth is that in the matter of food, I lack self-control," (Lawson, 2007, p. 29). This is ridiculous that people believe that addiction can come down to something as little as self-control. Gene Heyman the author of Addiction: A Disorder of Choice is in favor of this idea. In his book he argues that drug addiction is a result of natural process involving voluntary behavior, specifically as a choice (2009). This idea is the complete opposite on how the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). They both believe that drug abuse is a disease, specifically, addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease...Similar to other, relapsing diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease," (Branch, 2011, p. 265). If studies show addiction is similar to diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, how can people still believe that this comes down to being able to say no? It is a serious issue that cannot be taken lightly.

"Indeed, abuse of and addiction to substances is one of the most frequently occurring mental health problems in the United States," (Gladding, 2013, p. 409). More and more studies are coming up that believe addiction is a medical condition. Dr. Dalrymple claims that drug addiction is an illness that can be cured by medical treatment



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