Addiction: The disease that lies
July 26th, 2011
04:13 PM ET

Addiction: The disease that lies

Marvin Seppala, M.D., is the chief medical officer of Hazelden, a private not-for-profit alcohol and drug addiction treatment organization.

I learned of four addiction-related deaths this weekend. Three were people I knew in Portland, Oregon, recovery circles and the fourth was Amy Winehouse.

Tragically one must get used to such news if you spend a lot of time with those who have this disease. Whenever someone with addiction dies, I grieve the lost potential and wonder about the limitations of our ability to address this cunning, baffling and powerful disease.

I am also humbled by my own experience with addiction and recovery, and grateful for the help I received.

It seems nearly impossible to believe that people with addiction would continue to use drugs and alcohol to the point of death, but that is what people with addiction do:  They  deny both the consequences and the risks of using. As we continue to learn about addiction, we’re understanding  more about  why addicted people behave the way they do. But that’s little solace for friends and family.

Addiction is a brain disease, and our knowledge of it has expanded significantly, which has informed our treatment programs and altered our perceptions. We know that addiction resides in the limbic system, a subconscious part of our brain that is involved with memory, emotion and reward.

We refer to this area of the brain as the reward center, as it ensures that all rewarding or reinforcing activities, especially those associated with our survival, are prioritized. The reward center makes sure we survive by eating, drinking fluids, having sex (for survival of the species) and maintaining human interactions.

In late stages of addiction we can see how reward-related drives, especially those for survival, are reprioritized when people risk their families, their jobs, even their lives to continue to use drugs and alcohol. The continued use of the drug becomes the most important drive, at a subconscious level and unrecognized by the individual, undermining even life itself.

When a methamphetamine-addicted mother makes the nightly news after neglecting her children for four days while on a meth run, we can’t comprehend how anyone could do such a thing and tend to think she does not love her children. She may have been going out for groceries with the intent to return home and feed her children, but ran into a dealer and started using.

Addiction took over, and she was driven by subconscious forces even though she loves her children as much as I love mine. Her love and her natural instincts to care for and nurture her children were overridden by her own brain, the reward system  reprogrammed to seek and use drugs at all costs. Unbeknownst to her, drug use has become the most important thing in her life.

When we witness the incomprehensible behaviors associated with addiction we need to remember these people have a disease, one that alters their brain and their behaviors. We tend to believe we all have free will, so it is difficult to understand how the addicts' perception has been so altered as to drive them to destruction.

We also assume they can make their own decisions, especially when it comes to help for their addiction. In so doing we are expecting the person with a diseased brain to accept the unacceptable, that the continued use of drugs is not providing relief from the problem - it is the problem, and they need to stop that which has become paramount.

They are unable to make such decisions because their brains have been altered to prioritize use of the drugs, even above survival itself.

Relief of psychic pain, the real, unimaginable pain of addiction, is part of the problem. People have many reasons for seeking relief from pain; some pain precedes the addiction, but most pain is the result of the addiction.

The addicted neglect their primary relationships and they may lie, cheat and steal to continue drug use. And they know this at some level, they recognize their uncontrolled behaviors, but they can’t change, they can’t stop.

Hopelessness becomes a way of life. Self-loathing, shame and guilt become the norm as the consequences of continued drug use accumulate.

They use drugs to ease the pain, but the very remedy exacerbates the problem. The answer to their dilemma goes unrecognized due to the neurobiological changes that have occurred in their brains.

The good news is that treatment is effective and specifically designed to help people recognize the problem within. Most people are coerced into treatment for one reason or another; they may be facing legal issues, job loss or divorce.

With good treatment their likelihood for recovery and abstinence is just as good as the minority who seek treatment of their own accord. Unfortunately, less than 10% of those with addiction recognize they have it and seek treatment.

This is the primary reason people don’t seek help. Our largest public health problem goes unrecognized by those with the disease.

Every one of these deaths is tragic. They died of a disease that lies to them. Amy Winehouse had incredible musical talent that enthralled the masses, but she became known as much for her struggle with addiction.

We can safely watch such a tragedy, gawking as we drive by the destruction, insulated from the suffering and unable to help. But addiction is all around us and we need to respond to the rising death toll.

All of us are responsible for learning the truth about addiction, raising awareness and intervening for those who have this disease, knowing they are unlikely to be able to do so for themselves.

Follow @CNNHealth on Twitter.

« Previous entry
soundoff (368 Responses)
  1. Wes

    I agree with a lot of this, but at the same time this stuff is so much easier said than done. My mother has dealt with addiction for literally, my entire life. And trying to force myself to 'understand' the issue is tough. She's been absent my whole life and has most certainly prioritized her problem over her family. Trying to be compassionate about the destruction of our family from the inside out is nigh impossible. It's been going on for such an extremely long time that it no longer becomes an issue of anger over the addiction, but more about the anger towards her for being a (sorry to say) deadbeat. My father has no wife, and hasn't shared a romantic moment with a woman in decades. Its to the point now where he wouldn't know what the hell to do with a normal woman. Her two kids, my brother & I, loathe her. This sounds terrible, speaking of her in this regard, but this situation that has become a major part of our lives has transformed us into numb, angry people.

    July 26, 2011 at 16:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • My take!

      I know how you feel. With me it's not my mother but someone else who has destroyed his life and mine too because I loved him (past time) and I didn't believe he was an addict because well duh he told me that he wasn't. He seemed to have it all together, function well on his job, everything moving along smoothingly..... until one day he cracked. Walked in, quit his job, then I found out that a lifetime savings was gone.... due to addiction. I am thoroughly disgusted with mostly him and somewhat angry at myself for not being able to face the truth and be strong enough to get him out of my life thirty years ago.

      July 26, 2011 at 17:32 | Report abuse |
    • Dakine

      I agree with you. I am the product of an alcoholic ex and one child ending up in rehab, (thankfully she clean and sober for many years now). I think the perception that addicts are somehow in control of their thinking and decision-making abilities is the reason why so many of them don't get the help they need. It's a brain disease, plain and simple and a painful one for those around them. I don't think it's wrong to have feelings of frustration and anger which is what Al-Anon addresses. At some point, you have to have a life that isn't intertwined with the addict so that you can be healthy and happy. You deserve it.

      July 26, 2011 at 23:02 | Report abuse |
    • pprty

      No, it doesn't sound terrible to loath her. You don't have to be connected to her – feel about her as you would the neighbor lady. Live your own life – I'm sure you have done the opposite of the things she has done, that's what she and your father have taught you, so take that one thing as a good lesson and be free of ties to them. If you feel angry about what they failed to provide you growing up, it will affect your life, so feel glad that they showed you how not to be. Been there.

      July 27, 2011 at 09:10 | Report abuse |
    • Hope


      The disease of addiction is like an F5 tornado running through peoples lives. It is sad that the people closest to the addict get hurt the most. You may know that Alonon is a program for family members of addicts. Your Mother's disease has made you sick too. I am a recovering addict with two children and I come from a long line of addicts and most of them have died from this disease. I have a hard time understanding and coming to terms with this disease and I definitely don't expect others to. My family has forgiven me for all the pain I caused and I am truly blessed indeed. I am sorry about your Mother and I hope that you will find your peace in forgiveness.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:22 | Report abuse |
    • Deby D.

      I feel absolutely no empathy or concern for the person in my life who has destroyed my marriage and my children's sense of trust and love from their father. He has casused irreparable pain to all of us. There is not "understanding" or forgiveness. He has made his choices and we have all made ours. The difference is that we can live by our choices and still respect ourselves; he cannot. He deserves the consequences of his actions as all of us who are not addicts must do every day of our lives.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:10 | Report abuse |
    • cocoloco

      Addiction is not a disease. Cancer and the Flu are diseases. Addiction begins when we don't have control over ourselves and get hooked on something that makes us slaves. Keep hearing the lie. The longer the more 'addicted' we get! Retard doctors!

      July 27, 2011 at 13:14 | Report abuse |
  2. Merry go rounf

    Sigmund Freud believed that people were pleasure driven and pain avoidant. Addiction is both a way to feel good but also to rid one self of anxiety, worry and both physical and emotional pain. This can be done with not only drugs (including alcohol) but food, compulsive shopping, hoarding, running and many other things .

    July 26, 2011 at 16:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Fuyuko

    I do not really consider an addiction a disease. I do think it is a physical/psychological dependency. But not really a disease per se. And the disease doesn't 'lie' to people. It is the person's dependence which rationalizes the use and distorts their perception of the addiction.

    July 26, 2011 at 17:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • G999

      Right! It's part of all the 'mystical power' rapola durrounding the religious cultists and self-help gurus.

      July 26, 2011 at 19:31 | Report abuse |
    • Ray

      Did you even read the article? You clearly have no idea what you're talking about. It's not something that addicts can control once their brains get rewired by the drugs. Instead of judging and pontificating on something you have no experience with, give a little credit to people who have been there and made it back alive. Most don't.

      July 26, 2011 at 19:58 | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      Either you failed to understand the article or you didn't read it. Either way, it makes no difference whether you believe addiction is a disease or not because modern medicine has proved that you are wrong. God help anyone in your family or acquaintance who has a problem with addiction, for you will be no help to them with your prejudice and lack of compassion.

      July 26, 2011 at 20:25 | Report abuse |
    • Mickey1313

      I agree. Adiction is a weakness of will, nothing more.

      July 26, 2011 at 23:48 | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      I have been an addict for over 30 years and in recovery for the past 3. You really don't understand that it is a disease from the aspect that the chemicals in your brain are changed with the usage of the drug of choice. The increased response in the limbic system truly changes the chemical map of the brain causing neuro pathways to be bypassed where in a non diseased individual they would not be. This has been proven over and over and why the term withdrawl is so prevelant. A remapping process of the neuro pathways is extremely hard and painful both physically and emotionally. It can be done though if one is willing. I hope that you never have to face the terrible horror that is addiction. I wish this on no one not even my enemies.

      July 27, 2011 at 09:18 | Report abuse |
    • N

      Ignorance is bliss! You see this as a moral issue vs. a disease ..... It's not a matter of will power... Can you will away any non curable condition?

      July 27, 2011 at 11:46 | Report abuse |
    • Rhon

      It is a disease. Those who don't have the 'altered" brain condition do not respond to the drugs and such the same as the "unaltered" brain. When someone without the disease uses they may feel relaxed. But the altered brain its like a birth defect, the response is a feeling of overwhelming calm and release. That does not happen in people that don't have the brain issue. Being that it is a fundamental malfunction of brain chemical response and receptor sesativity put it smack in the middle of the "disease" catagory.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:12 | Report abuse |
    • Kris

      I too don't believe it's a "disease". You can't get addicted to heroin if you don't try it. And it's common knowledge that if you DO try it, you're going to get addicted. So how can doing a stupid act of trying heroin, be a "disease"?

      July 27, 2011 at 12:14 | Report abuse |
    • DianeD

      I tend to agree. I always thought of alcoholism, for example, is a learned behavior. Somewhere the alcoholic was around somebody who drank, whether it be parents, relatives, friends, co-worrkers, neighbors, and drinking was "learned" and excessive amounts of drinking lead to alcoholism, not a person's physiological makeup leading to alcoholism. Addictions can be "unlearned." Too bad I can't practice what I preach regarding my cigarette addiction!

      July 27, 2011 at 12:56 | Report abuse |
    • Kris

      "not something that addicts can control once their brains get rewired by the drugs"

      exactly my point. don't be an idiot and do drugs, and you won't get addicted! wow isn't that a novel idea?

      July 27, 2011 at 13:47 | Report abuse |
    • Fuyuko

      This is a discussion board. That means we should discuss things. I'm not judging people at all. I just don't consider it to be a physical disease. That doesn't mean I do not consider it a serious condition which needs treatment. And how do you know I have no experience with addiction? Before you leap to conclusions, don't make assumptions. everyone can have a different viewpoint. That is what makes everyone different.

      July 27, 2011 at 17:29 | Report abuse |
    • Speny

      My post later on ..

      Here's something I ran across on alcohol addiction I found interesting...

      "[In the human body] alcohol is converted into acetaldehyde (toxic), then acetic acid (vinegar), then carbon dioxide and water. In an alcoholic, a small amount of acetaldehyde is NOT eliminated; instead it is used to manufacture tetrahydrolsoquinoline (THIQ) in the brain, which is found in heroine and is highly addictive. THIQ stays there. As it piles up, the alcoholic crosses over a line, becoming as hooked on alcohol as he would have been on heroin."

      July 27, 2011 at 20:27 | Report abuse |
  4. Carolyn

    my 68 year old mother is an addict and has been for at least 40 years. She's been arrested twice, in the hospital dozens of times, burned her entire house down, and more.
    I cannot help someone who does not want to help herself. I mourn for the person she could have been.

    July 26, 2011 at 17:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Merry go round

    I do not buy the limbic system, people only want pleasure, theory. I think addiction is the opposite, people want to avoid pain. Addiction is a way to feel good but also a way to rid one self of anxiety, worry and both physical and emotional pain. This can be done with not only drugs (including alcohol) but food, tobacco, compulsive shopping, hoarding, running and many other things. In my experience with addicts I see them trying to avoid unpleasant emotions more than wanting to feel pleasure. Some addicts do not want to feel at all, they want to become numb. Long term addictions are not pleasurable, they are a living hell, yet people keep using. After decades of abuse people are in unbearable pain, but they become even more compulsive trying to numb themselves. Finally, that last resort to eliminate pain is suicide.

    If an addict cannot learn to live with anxiety, frustrations and a range of uncomfortable feelings, then they resort back to addiction. The key to recovery is how to recognise and learn to live with unpleasant emotions.

    July 26, 2011 at 17:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jackson Wagon

      And just what are your qualifications?

      July 26, 2011 at 17:53 | Report abuse |
    • Addiction=Disease

      YOU might not buy the limbic system theory, but I assure you if you do your research you'll find there is plenty of evidence to support what Dr. Seppala has described in this article. I'd be happy to email you a few articles if you'd like.

      July 26, 2011 at 18:36 | Report abuse |
    • G999

      Say, Jackson...what if the hangover came first?

      July 26, 2011 at 19:33 | Report abuse |
    • CalgarySandy

      Yes, Merry go round. The Limbic system is not the whole story and many addicts are self medicating. They likely could have been helped with the things that cause the pain but it is not available to all. Therapy is rarely adequately covered in health care plans and many do not even have a plan. Therapy can work but it is a long job and hard work. Few families are willing to provide the support needed. It is spitting into the wind telling people who have no plan that they should get therapy.

      July 26, 2011 at 19:54 | Report abuse |
    • been there

      it sounds like you have been there-either through your own addiction or someone close to you. you hit the nail on the head. mi hae dealth with addiction in my family and unless you have, or unless you are a truly compassionate person, there is no way you can ever understand it.

      July 26, 2011 at 21:22 | Report abuse |
  6. Claire

    I lost my only sibling and one of my closest friends to addiction-related diseases. Wes and Carolyn are right–after many years, the compassion, empathy, etc. finally has to be subordinated to health boundaries and one's own well-being, as well as that of the family. Many addicts destroy lives in ways those not in such relationships never think about. A woman whose boyfriend hides drugs in her car so she ends up serving years in prison although she's completely innocent; family members' cherished belongings, cars, etc. stolen to buy drugs; the emotional and physical abuse perpetrated by addicts; the mentally retarded babies that are tossed aside by the addict that require lifelong care. It's much more than just an addict getting high.

    July 26, 2011 at 17:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CalgarySandy

      Do not worry. You are typical of the people who leave deeply ill people by the wayside. You are just like those who refuse to acknowledge mental illness in their family and so abandon them because it is hard on you. People today are not willing to do what our ancestor did: Put loved ones ahead of personal difficulty. I have a social life to get to so, you have to leave my home. I have to make big money so I cannot be bothered with your problems. My grandparents would never have behaved that way toward the ill. My Baptist mother was a monster about my illness from early child hood on. You know what, I did not get better by being treated like garbage. Funny how that works.

      July 26, 2011 at 19:49 | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      CalgarySandy, you missed Claire's point. Read what she wrote again and get to a meeting. Restless, irritable and discontent is no way to go through life. Claire is on your side, Sandy. She lost her sibling and she understands it's a struggle. So do I.

      July 26, 2011 at 20:29 | Report abuse |
    • Liz

      Claire is right. Al-Anon is not about abandoning addicts but rather about setting boundaries and realizing those affected by another's addiction can't solve the problem. Life does go on and Al-Anon is a good way to support those people who have addicts in their lives.

      July 27, 2011 at 16:16 | Report abuse |
  7. WOW

    Great article. Thanks for shedding more light on this huge public health problem that is plagued by denial. I work as a detox nurse seeing the deadliest symptom of denial twisting the mental reasoning and rational thinking of a person. I am also a survivor of this deadly disease of addiction and recovering ODAT. The family and loved ones get just as sick with the mental anguish that they go through witnessing this disease. This disease is a mental, physical and spiritual disease that responds well to recovery that heals all three aspects of the disease in both the loved ones and the addict. I hope the government treats this like the major public health problem it is and put forth an effort as big as we see now for obesity.

    July 26, 2011 at 18:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CalgarySandy

      Thank you for your knowledge and your empathy. I think the lack of compassion in our society is one of the reasons for the disintegration of our society. Bigots do not express anything even remotely like compassion.

      July 26, 2011 at 19:46 | Report abuse |
  8. tonya

    I don't buy into the authors "they can't help it, they love their kids just as much as anyone else" theory. That's not been my observation of the addicts around me. Just my main frame of reference: There is an element of choice and selfishness. I've had 43 years of blood, sweat and tears to earn my opiniont. My father died of this disease (yes, chronic alcoholism was listed as the cause of death) in the fall of 2010 after mulitple bouts of treatment over the years – getting completely dried out and completing fairly lengthy aftercare the last two times and even being on antibuse because he supposedly loved his family – still he made choices to stop taking the antibuse. He timed it out just so that he could begin drinking without the physical repercussions from the antibuse at whatever moment he CHOSE to pick the booze over his wife, kids and grandkids. He made it very clear to me by his conscious actions that he didn't give a rats behind about anything but indulging himself and conducting a pity party fit for a 16 yr old drama queen – only this pity party lasted decades – longer than I have been alive. So, when he passed away after 6 weeks in intensive care after losing his ability to swallow (from asperating too many times over the years), and being unable to breath without the assistance of tubes/respirators – I endured all the pain without choosing to self medicate. It was excrutiating, physically I felt that I was imploding and it was a searing, white hot pain that was nearly unberable. As a child of an alcoholic, pretty sure also (granpa died before I could really be sure) grandaughter of an alcoholic, I "have the genetic disposition". I've had my party/hard drinking and drug expermentation years – growing up in the 80s. A point in time came when I made a conscious CHOICE to taper off down to nothing and prioritize my life in a more responsible way. I gave a crap about my children's emotional development. I didn't ever want them to go through the hell that my father put myself, my mom, my siblings through. They saw what he was like to a certain degree until I cut off contact (as he spiraled even further out of control) They did experience some hurt – but they will never have to process the knowledge that their own parent doesn't love them, doesn't give one crap about them or their feelings, will lie and manipulate at all times to get their way and thoughtlessly uses people as pawns with complete and utter disregard for anything other than their own indulgences. I understand that during the course of the disease – a person may have physical addiction and cravings that can minimize their control to a degree – but once that person has detoxed and had some time to be treated and counseled – then they get out and make a decision to say to heck with it, and choose to take that first drink or pill or whatever.... that person needs to take ownership of that decision. I will not buy into this mamby, pamby, weak minded, give people excuses to avoid ownership of their actions. This mindset is the very mindset that gives the addict who decides to throw recovery away their excuse to do just that – and give the big f u to the people who have wasted their time and energy trying to love them... ahhhhhhggggg I could go on and on, but let me tell you, I have been tempted to dive to the bottom of a bottle or drive off a cliff because it would be so much easier than living through this bs and having to feel every tear of my heart and soul with no anesthisia. But, it is the CHOICE that I make not to perpetuate my fathers cycle.

    July 26, 2011 at 18:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Donna

      I completly agree with you. I have a family member that had several addictions for over 20 years and he chose to "be Clean" and has been for the last 23 years. It is a choice that each pearson makes, use or not. There are other alternatives to your problems than to blame them on something you can't control. See a shrink if you have to, they help! These addicts are selfish and self-centered and hide their real problems with drugs and drink. If they really took their own actions into account and accepted responsibility they wouldn't be "addicts."

      July 26, 2011 at 19:39 | Report abuse |
    • CalgarySandy

      Clearly, arm chair expert, you have no familiarity on the research on mental illness, addiction and neurology. Try on some facts and stop discouraging hope in people. You have one of the traits that distinguishes Psychopaths: You lack empathy.

      July 26, 2011 at 19:44 | Report abuse |
    • WOW

      My heart hears your pain. My memory banks are filled with my own from being a child of, grand daughter of, wife of and then on to be the sick alcoholic myself. This pain was like a virus eating away in my mind, my heart and my spirit. Anger and resentments are toxic. For me it perpetuates the sickness in myself. I did not know freedom until I got help. Alanon, Adult Child, AA, counseling...whatever it takes. I pray that the desire for a new way of life enters you. Recovery is possible. For me it took a lot of pain for me to see that it had to start within me.

      July 26, 2011 at 22:03 | Report abuse |
    • Jhask

      Well said, Tonya. Very well said.

      July 26, 2011 at 23:38 | Report abuse |
    • baskethound

      My sympathy to you and yours, as we say in the deep south. I am a recovering alcoholic with some extended periods of sobriety. Your story scares me because my daughter is 14 and is aware of my situation (I also suffer from chronic depression and/or bipolar-I cant get a straight answer.
      My only disagreement with your statement is that your father did not love or his family. In the most severe phases of addiction it is easy to see how a non-addoct can believe it. I love my daughter more than my life or anything on earth, but that love has never been sufficient to make me stop drinking. All I can do is work the program one day or one minute at a time. I know my addictive brain enough to know that I can honestly promise I will never drink again=the addiction is that powerful, but when I am in recovery I know that I have a choice to pick up that first drink. But once that happens I have no choice. To me it makes me angry at my self, my biology in that I cant drink like others or control it and deeply ashamed, especially when I KNOW Iove my daughter as much as I do. Luckily, so far, I have heaped as much damage on her as your father my have on you and your family. But I hear the worry and fear in her voice as she gets older, and it does help me fight the urge.

      July 27, 2011 at 01:25 | Report abuse |
    • VR

      I agree with you completely! It is obvious you know what you are talking about. My life has been shaped in ways I wasn't even consciously aware of due to my father's alcohol and drug addition. I've chosen not to have children (even though I desperately wanted them) in order to finally stop the cycle of addition. The ramifications of having a parent who is an addict are never-ending..

      Thanks for sharing...

      July 27, 2011 at 12:35 | Report abuse |
  9. K

    Thank you for sharing this message. As someone who has loved a still-active addict, it's painful to see and acknowledge that the disease takes away self will. Those people who believe that addicts can choose whether or not to have this disease, especially those with no experience with it, need either to become educated or keep their opinions to themselves. There is no room for judgement here...this situation is already deadly. Also, please next time share the message of support groups for the friends and families of addicts. Going to Alanon has literally changed my life - what I've learned there to approach addiction helped my alcoholic, but more importantly helped me find the sanity and serenity that I never had. Please encourage it when you put out your message. Thank you.

    July 26, 2011 at 18:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. MoodyMoody

    When do you define addiction as pathological? Considering that so many people are addicted to so many things, addiction may be almost normal. I've struggled with food addiction, but mostly cope with normal life; my husband is addicted to World of Warcraft (by his own admission) but has a full-time job at which he does well despite having cancer. It's difficult to think of anyone who isn't addicted to something.

    July 26, 2011 at 18:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chartreuxe

      So that makes it all right, because there are lots of people with addictions?

      July 26, 2011 at 20:39 | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      The above was meant to question whether or not one should bother to seek recovery. This writer's position is that one should do, of course.

      July 26, 2011 at 20:48 | Report abuse |
    • Erin

      I think a main difference between food addiction or an addiction to a video game and addiction to drugs or alcohol, is who what comes from the addiction. Drugs change your brain. They are illegal. Food addiction is going to primarily affect you. Your health will be poor, maybe your husband won't be attracted to you anymore due to your appearance. Maybe you will be annoyed because his playing a game means you don't have quality time. It's less likely, however, that one of you will start to sell your things in order to feed your addiction. You aren't going to end up in jail or killing someone in a DUI. You probably aren't going to destroy ALL of your relationships or losing your job because you can't do it properly anymore. It will be hard to battle your addiction, yes, particularly if you have a genetic predisposition to it, but your brain has probably not been rewired by the very substance you are battling.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:28 | Report abuse |
  11. Beatrice

    Don't even start. America needs people with clean blood. People with abstinence will save the day at the end. The planet is polluted enough; why take in stupid substance further?

    July 26, 2011 at 18:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Beatrice

    Addiction of any kind is the best waster of human life. It really prevents people from enjoying variety of true pleasures/happiness in life. Jesus frees humanity from the slavery to sin.

    July 26, 2011 at 18:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hmmm

      Healing for most diseases,when looked at holistically, involves spiritual, mental, physical, and social aspects of the person. I think addiction is no different and found this health recovery philosophy in most 12 step recovery programs. In my opinion the spiritual aspect is a personal one that each person finds within themselves and for some it reunites them with their childhood religion while for others it starts a new spiritual journey.

      July 27, 2011 at 08:06 | Report abuse |
  13. Trina

    I learned, when I was 13, that drugs can be addictive. I CHOSE not to be an addict then, and each time I was offered drugs, I CHOSE not to be an addict. All addicts had a choice! (Yeah... you can give me the line that I don't have a clue because I have never been high... but that was my choice!)

    July 26, 2011 at 18:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Trina

      By the way... I lost my youngest brother when he had a fatal car accident while completely wasted. My other brother has had his mental illness compounded by drugs and alcohol until he was thrown in jail. The felony on his record will make sure he never gets a decent job... his mental issues will take care of the rest. I made my choice, they made theirs. I like my choice better.

      July 26, 2011 at 19:02 | Report abuse |
    • CalgarySandy

      You are a self-involved and compassionless idiot.

      July 26, 2011 at 19:40 | Report abuse |
    • Chartreuxe

      Trina, you're mistaken. When you were 13 your brain wasn't developed or matured completely. If you had taken a single hit of heroin IV it's likely you wouldn't have been able to make that 'choice' you're so self-righteously proud of now. The brain is altered by drug abuse and the phenomenon of craving the substance is activated. It's not something under conscious control.

      Such arrogance. You're still quite young, one imagines.

      July 26, 2011 at 20:37 | Report abuse |
    • Pam

      You guys weren't reading correctly... she chose to never expose herself to the risk of becoming addicted, by refusing to ever try an addictive substance. It was a smart choice, and one her brothers could have also tried. You can't become addicted to a substance you never ingest, after all.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:40 | Report abuse |
  14. G999

    The relapse rate of these types of born-again crusaders is legendary. Today, at the 'pulpit'. Next year, perhaps behind 3 dui's and 2 counts of vehicular manslaughter.

    July 26, 2011 at 19:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • E

      being a former addict and helping others makes him a crusader? Would it be better for people to just not try and then die of their addictions?
      I almost lost my brother to addiction, but he got a second chance at life, and even if he started again I am infinitely thankful that for however many years he is sober, I have my brother back after years of thinking he was gone forever at the bottom of a bottle.

      July 26, 2011 at 19:38 | Report abuse |
    • CalgarySandy

      Fundamentalist religions do more damage to children than any other kind of addiction. Fear of HeII drives these people and they cannot put their children or spouse before that fear. Child abuse is rampant among the religion addicts as they attempt to get brownie points in heaven for making their family accept Jebus as their Slavior. The abuse is of many kinds: Spiritual, Physical, Psychological, and Cognitive. The latter has to do with not allowing the child to think for themselves and punishing them if they dare to say maybe Evolution is true. There is evidence galore that being raised by a Fundamentalist Christian causes the same problems as being raised by an Alcoholic. In both cases the addict abandons their children long before they children leave home. Though I am left leaning I would ban Fundamentalist Christianity. There is line and in the case of these people the abuse of their children is the line.

      July 26, 2011 at 19:38 | Report abuse |
  15. Sam

    My son was just arrested again–he started taking methamphetamine again after over a year of abstinence. It hurts so much to watch him destroy himself. I can relate to what Amy Winehouse's parents must have felt. I believe it is a disease–how can anyone who wants so much to stay clean end up doing this again? I miss my son the way he really is when he is clean–it's like two different people. He has no insurance, so when he gets out of jail, I don't know what will happen to him. He has dug himself into a financial mess and job prospects will be grim. It's like watching a long, slow death, but at the same time, you have to protect yourself from the person you love.

    July 26, 2011 at 19:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • been there

      sam i feel your pain. i have gone through the same thing with my son. he just got out of jail-and so far so good. but i just wait for that ball to drop. he is to the point of no return if he chooses to kill his pain with drugs again. he knows this-i hope he stays clean. when he is on drugs he is not my son...he is a totally different person.

      all the people who think this is a choice are self righteous and need to get out and see what addiction really is. not what you think it is. it is a dreadful thing, and no one chooses to become an addict. do you really think that a person says one day 'oh-i think i will become an addict-it looksm like such a wonderful mlife'? really? get real here. it hell. for the addict and for the ones who love them.

      July 26, 2011 at 21:32 | Report abuse |
    • Kareni

      Sam, I am in a similar place and noone can ever imagine the internal conflicts loved ones experience. It's a horrible feeling of helplessness. My situation is a bit more restrictive but can't talk about it here.......I am here if you or someone else wants to talk in an email

      July 26, 2011 at 23:14 | Report abuse |
  16. tonya

    @calgarysandy – not sure if you were referring to me as having no empathy. empathy for my father as he lay dying – somewhat for the condition he was in at that moment. that's where that searing pain came from partially, and partially for the sadness of wasted years and decimated family. I was unable to excuse the actions that lead him to where he was though. Not because of any particular mental health article I may or may not have read, but because of what I lived through. My empathy is mostly for the survivors of the years of abuse and neglect, and my sorrow mainly for the fact that grandchildren who are 100% innocent were robbed of a real grandchild/grandparent relationship – that my father thought was worth less than a bottle of vodka. I firmly believe it based on his conduct/patterns of behavior and sh it upon opportunities that other people beg for and are denied. Never was an ounce of empathy expressed by him for me or mine. That factors into empathy I extend to him – but only after previous attempts to extend empathy time and time again were rejected. Yet I love(d) this man more than anyone else ever on this planet aside from my children/grandchild. Still I love him dearly – thus the implosion of my insides which is as fresh today as it was last September, and as fresh as the last time he told me to f.... off as I begged him to take the help that was once again being offered to him. That stuff is more real to me than any mental health class or article. Would be nice if the mental health articles and classes could actually help people who don't want help and vehemenantly refuse help. Those who don't refuse it actually do have, and should pursue help. Those who really don't give a crap should quit standing in the way of those who are trying to better themselves.

    July 26, 2011 at 20:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • HK

      Tonya, my father also drank himself to death, long before he even had a chance to meet my son. It sounds to me like you may want to check out AlAnon, you are holding so much anger for something your father really didn't have any control over.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:11 | Report abuse |
  17. Ann

    One of my sons was an addict for years. We paid for him to go to Hazelton, Betty Ford and another expensive center. He would not stay at these places to get help. I started saying an "Our Father" for him, each day, to stop this addiction.. Day one it stopped. Day two he went to an out- patient rehab clinic at one of our healthcare Centers. We didn't tell him to go!!!! It's been 9 months and no drugs! I still of course say the Our Father Each day and will the rest of my life! God is THERE to help, please believe me.

    July 26, 2011 at 20:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chartreuxe

      Those rehabs took at last, Ann. No one can fix anyone else and if prayer cured addicts my nephew would be clean.

      July 26, 2011 at 20:33 | Report abuse |
    • Ellen

      Does this mean 'Our Father' loved your son more than my daughter? She lived 20 years, five hours and 18 seconds.

      July 26, 2011 at 21:04 | Report abuse |
  18. Sydney

    No one gets up every morning and repeatedly chooses to slowly and painfully torture themselves to death, while simultaneously destroying the lives of innocent people around them. If that isn't proof of brain dysfunction, I'm not sure what is.

    I could say it's all a choice, and not one I would ever make. That might allow me to feel superior. Or reassure me. Or justify the anger I could understandably feel at the addict. But it would be just a protective self-delusion, ironically similar to the denial the addict lives in. Who becomes an addict is a complex mix of genetics, biochemical processing, brain/neuronal wiring, personal life history, personality traits, social support, cultural influences, and perhaps more things we don't even understand yet.

    I'm an adult child of two alcoholics myself. I understand the pain. To anyone dealing with the side effects of any loved one's current or former addiction – hurt, anger, anxiety, depression, broken relationships – please look up your local Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meetings and go. All you need to do is listen. If you don't like the first meeting, try it again. Try others. Keep going back. There is help, hope and healing whether or not your loved one ever stops their addiction.

    July 26, 2011 at 20:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tonya

      glad you got some help with that.... I spent a few years in that system and various meetings and all I got out of it was that there was a lot of coffee drinking going on and it was just not for me.... There was some nice prayers. I chose to love my kids, mom and siblings as much as I can, and eliminate as much drama as possible from our lives. I have a lot of anger – which is not always healthy, but it's not healty to be a doormat either, which I felt like I was when I was trying to support and help a person who didn't want it, didn't really want me in his life. That's the sad reality that I need to accept and it is a work in progress. He hasn't been dead a year. The fact that I haven't said yes to escaping when it is extrememly tempting says tells me I could be doing worse.. the fact that I'm the crazy pis sed off chick having heated converstations with a dead man as I drive home from work each day tells me that I could be doing better. We all have different ways of dealing with this kind of aftermath. I would love it if Al-anon and Narc-anon could take it all away for me... I know people who get a lot of relief from those programs. It just wasn't for me, but yes, a lot of people who have are in this type of family situation should try it and see if it helps them....

      July 26, 2011 at 20:41 | Report abuse |
  19. AddictionDoctor

    Many of the commenters are struggling with the notion that addiction is a disease, not a choice. Is addiction a disease or a choice? Brain science tells us that addiction is a disease OF choice. Addiction hijacks the parts of the brain involved in making decisions...Deep brain structures over which we have no control usurp the executive decision making capacity of the brain.

    Yes, it's hard to accept. Who wants to believe they can't choose, when their choices are so horrific. But the evidence is clear.

    Fantastic article.

    July 26, 2011 at 20:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. samsteve

    Its a heart ache... nothing but a heart ache.'

    July 26, 2011 at 22:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Abdul Ameer

    The soul is a mystery, but this article is pseudoscience. People with disturbed and troubled souls, coupled with low self-esteem and negative self-image ("I'm not o.k.") often engage in some sort of self-destructive behavior because they have a sub-conscious desire to self-destruct. This could be drugs, it could be abuse of alcohol, could be various forms of behavior with an obvious elevated risk of self-destruction. A person with a healthy self-image, on the other hand, considers the body to be the tabernacle of the soul and will do good things for the body. Substance abuse does not cause the desire for self-destruction, but it does exacerbate it. Ultimately, the solution lies in motivating the person to move from "I'm not o.k." to "I'm o.k." The "damaged brain" concept could. in itself, be damaging to the addict by convincing the addict that he or she has no power to change his or her life. The addict needs to be convinced that he/she does have the power to turn his/her life around, AND that he/she is worthy of turning it around.

    July 26, 2011 at 22:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • c nelson

      I believe there absolutely is a self-esteem issue in these situations. People that get actively involved (not just actively interested) in their physical, emotional and spiritual health will tend to have more positive triggers in their lives, whereas individuals who have been deceived by their own fears and doubts will tend to have more negative triggers in their lives, which can bring them down and depress them. These triggers, then, trigger a particular set of neurotransmitters which could arguably become a feedback mechanism. Positive triggers (a new toy) trigger feel-good endorphins and other neurotransmitters, and perhaps "negative" triggers - e.g. all the problems associated with negative interactions with other people - then trigger other neurotransmitters in other parts of the brain which cause pain, discomfort, aggression, and so on.

      The neurotransmitters fire FIRST (if I understand this correctly) and then we form thoughts and ideas. Neurotransmitters come first. A person can just be angry for no reason - it's just those neurotransmitters firing. Or, for example, "I don't know, I just feel really happy today. No reason, I've just been happy and smiling all day." Do I need a reason?

      Low self esteem, the "there is something wrong with me and I don't know what it is and I can't do anything about it" (aka unlucky by design) and negative interactions with other people and society definitely seems to have something to do with it. There is also probably something going on with the different areas of the brain and the different possible combinations of various neurotransmitters, where and how they fire, and which ones fire, and external triggers can encourage certain neurotransmitters to fire, certain emotions to appear. neurotransmitter –> emotion –> thought, story, belief.

      We can find a solution to this problem. Many, many people really are quite miserable about it. But we need to stop the war on drugs too.

      July 27, 2011 at 02:30 | Report abuse |
    • Bob S

      When you mix science with religion you come up with some rather nasty and dangerous treatments. Freud wanted to bring psychology into the realm of science. We are not there yet. There is a lot of religion mixed in with almost all psychological theories. As long as there is talk of souls and free will within the field of psychology it will never be elevated to the level Freud envisioned.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:25 | Report abuse |
    • Woods Casey

      I really appreciate this! I have never in all my years heard of that before just now. This website reminds me of my BFF. Do not get afraid to spread your ideas. Keep doing what you are doing.


      December 17, 2018 at 20:24 | Report abuse |
  22. Tina

    They should have thrown gambling into this mix. I am watching my mother (age 73) slide down the slipper slope of destruction from gambling. She almost lost her house earlier this year, she sit at the hole in the wall slot machine and gambles for hours...even though she is diabetic. Being on a fixed income has not slowed her down. When ever she gets a penny from somewhere, off she goes. I am tired of watching this train wreck. I just wish she would get some help.....

    July 26, 2011 at 22:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kareni

      Hi Tina, I was just about to post something about gambling........that's what I am and have been dealing with my 21 year old son since he was about 14. TONIGHT, I helped him move his items out of a homeless motel where he was kicked out for not following up with DSS's paperwork and appts. It was so heartbreaking. I can't even describe. But, I'm just so exhausted with all this and SO OVER going thru the cycles over and over again.

      July 26, 2011 at 23:22 | Report abuse |
  23. samsteve

    I have seen too much damage and too many promising lives lost. I have been so angry with them. In their eyes I could see when they were lost. No matter what the cost at that point words, threats, tears would not work. I won't ever give up on my starfish but I know the choice is not as easy as we all think it maybe. Just keep picking them up and throwing them back in. You never know when you will save one. "If I' d known how to save life."

    July 26, 2011 at 23:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. TexasTom

    Every drink I ever took made perfect sense at the time I took it.
    If it didn't make perfect sense, my mind would make it make perfect sense.
    Alcoholism occurs between my right ear and my left ear.
    Why is it that after 43 years without having a drink, every once in a while a drink seems like a good idea?

    July 26, 2011 at 23:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. tcy

    Calling addiction a disease is the greatest disservice we can do to people with drug problems, as it only validates in their "diseased" mind why they won't and shouldn't get help. Tell a cancer patient that drug and alcohol abuse is considered the same as what they're going through. The author saying "The good news is treatment is effective..." is irresponsible. Can you talk cancer out of someone? Because that's basically the cure for all these addiction "diseases."

    July 27, 2011 at 00:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob S

      You are wrong. The view of addiction as a disease helps to remove the feelings of guilt and dispair that led to the addiction in the first place. Addicts are often people who have been put down since early childhood. – they don't need more guilt. Any treatment should focus only on the future and what can make the future better. Some medications and supplements can help in that regard. Certainly saying that addiction is a disease helps to remove the blame making it easier for the addict to focus on the future.

      July 27, 2011 at 07:12 | Report abuse |
  26. Jeff

    Can just once an otherwise well-written piece mention that cigarettes and food are also addictions that people routinely choose over their families and survival?

    July 27, 2011 at 00:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Francine

    Legalize weed. Have a nice day.

    July 27, 2011 at 03:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob S

      I would not suggest anyone use pot but I totally agree with you.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:06 | Report abuse |
  28. Michael G.

    Hi I'm Mike and I'm an alcoholic in recovery. I drank because of severe depression. I had been prescribed many, many anti-depressants. they would work for awhile then stopped working. I even had ECT. That was great while it lasted. Finally the MD put me on Seroquel 300mg. @ night. That was a few years ago. The depression has left. I feel normal again. I don't drink; I don't ever want to go back to that living hell. Thank you Seroquel !!! Thank you Doctor!!!

    July 27, 2011 at 04:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Michael's a Drug Rep?

      Seroquel can be used to treat many disorders. Ask your doctor if Seroquel is right for you! Certain side effects may be more prevalent while using Seroquel. For more information, consult http://www.seroquelxr.com and your medical professional.

      Can't afford your prescription bills? AstraZeneca may be able to help! Considering they had a 2010 annual profit of like a half a trillion dollars, they can afford to give away a pill or two.

      July 27, 2011 at 05:20 | Report abuse |
  29. Bob S

    Saying it is a disease of the limbic system is not correct – the neocortex is also diseased. There are genetic factors but quite a bit of the problems with addiction stem from social issues that have caused the neocortex to become disfunctional – and most of the problems started before the age of five. The author is wrong to imply that there is free will in any of us – few neuro scientists believe in free will. Aside from these shortcomings it is not a bad article.

    July 27, 2011 at 07:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. drchronicusa

    Addiction is a health issue, and it should be dealt with by doctors and hospitals, not police officers, judges and prison guards.

    July 27, 2011 at 07:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cbd Drops

      Thank you for sharing this awesome information. You have a number of nice facts here. You look at this subject from way more than one angle. Other then that, great write up! I got to bookmark your blog.


      December 18, 2018 at 00:33 | Report abuse |
    • Belize donation

      Could you write more about this topic? I certainly enjoyed every single bit of it. Do you ever have issues of website visitors copying your articles without asking you first? I've been a big fan of your craft for a long time now and I'm excited to see more from you.


      December 30, 2018 at 18:36 | Report abuse |
  31. Todd West

    OK, how about government addicts, the ones addicted to your money, and the power involved taking your money. What will you do about that addiction? I don't see anyone trying to "help" those people. What I am trying to say is there are all kinds of addiction, not just drugs. Those g-addicts I speak of, they will never get clean, like some other addicts until you MAKE them, because they don't believe they have a problem, and will never give up their drugs.

    July 27, 2011 at 08:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob S

      I accidentally hit like. I don't know what you are.talking about. If you are talking about the government taxing rich people at a higher rate you should just accept that they should pay a higher rate due to economic theory alone. If you are talking about taxing estates you should accept it because that has been the tradition of the U.S. since it was founded. If you don't like how the founders set up the country then you should leave – we live in a DEMOCRACY that has unfortunately corrupted by the very wealthy. In our democracy we have the right to tax away the wealth that the wealthy stole. Move to Uganda if you don't like those facts.

      July 27, 2011 at 09:57 | Report abuse |
  32. AgentSTS

    Addiction is not a disease. Addicts are not victims. Those that choose to pollute their bodies with mind-altering chemicals are fools and as much as some might want to pity them, they really are nothing more than stupid people that deserve the consequences that their bad choices bring them. If someone that chooses to pollute themselves chooses to stop then that's wonderful for them, but it'll be a cold day in hell before I waste time or money on a druggie that has proven that they're weak.

    July 27, 2011 at 08:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob S

      you are wrong. If you don't want to help people just say so and then leave the rest of us alone.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:03 | Report abuse |
    • susan

      You sound like that guy over in Germany, maybe put the addicts in a gas chamber. I belief hie name started with H, could get rid of all us defective people. You are a right proper GOOF.

      February 5, 2012 at 16:32 | Report abuse |
  33. Jim

    That dude needs to get it over with and just shave his head. Addiction to combing around it lies to you about the baldness.

    July 27, 2011 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Anne

    CalgarySandy: WOW! Are you seriously advocating sticking by someone who lets an innocent person take the prison rap for one's own illegal drug-related behaviour. SERIOUSLY?? Full disclosure; I had an alcoholic father and am currently on meds and in therapy for depression. Sooner ot later you have to help yourself. No one else can do it for you.

    July 27, 2011 at 09:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Robert

    Wow! Reading the posts here is like reading the battle going on in Washington over the debt ceiling, there is no room for real compromise. Here is what I know, I am an addict/alcoholic. I didn't choose to be this way(nobody in there right mind would) but listening to some people in these posts would say I have the choice. I have a disease that if I don't manage it, it will kill me, plan and simple. There are some people in these posts who have watched loved ones wrestle with this disease and feel that if they(the loved one) had a little more will power, would put there family or loved one first, understand the hell they are putting ones around them thru etc etc they would stop. You don't understand what an addict is or was. You can't because you are a normal person, you do not have this disease. You can read, talk, or experience the hell that an addict is, but you can never completely understand the addict, only another addict truly understands. The best example I can give is a war vet. You ask him (her) what is like to be in a war and he(she) can't tell you. It is an experience that cannot be described only lived through.

    The only defense I have is to never take that first drink. Once that first drink is taken I cannot tell what will happen next or where I will be. No amount of reasoning will stop me. No amount of shame, guilt, family, the law, spouses, children, etc
    will convince me to stop. There are people who say I have a choice to stop and that all I have to do is to want to stop. In a sense they are correct ,I have to want to stop and get help, unfortunately there are only 3 reasons I will stop, one is that I have died(happens a lot to addicts) I am incarcerated(another that happens a lot) or the pain of drinking becomes more than the pain of living(only addicts understand this one). Then I can get help. The only choice I have after this is not to take that first drink(sounds easy doesn't it!!). It isn't because this disease doesn't go away, it is always lurking around the corner, constant reminders on TV, grocery stores, restraunts, old friends, the night out, romantic encounters, movies, you name it. After awhile my brain tells me I can drink like other people, I can have that one drink with friends etc. I can put it down, wrong. I can never do that.

    The bottom line here is that please don’t judge me, understand me, try to
    qualify/quantify what it is to be a addict, unless you are one yourself. Everybody one else is just giving lip service to something they cannot understand or think they understand . I don’t want your sympathy, your love or hatred, just the fact I have a disease and I have to live my life one day at a time.

    July 27, 2011 at 09:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • pprty

      Well said Robert. I know people who have what they describe as a content sobriety, & they all keep working their program. Where I've seen relapse is when they change the program to suit themselves.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:41 | Report abuse |
  36. Slkelly00

    My father battled addiction for the last 30 years. He accidentally overdosed at the young age of 50 just a few months ago, leaving behind 3 daughters and 5 very young grandchildren that miss him terribly. I have spent my entire life trying to justify our worth to him, to get him to clean-up and never understanding why our need for him to be there wasnt enough for him to put down the pill-bottle. I knew that it was a disease he couldn't just fix, but accepting that wasn't an option either. We are going to have these feelings lingering for years to come as we watch our children play football without PaPa there to coach as he promised. Its heartbreaking and I feel for all of those that are in similar shoes. The guilt and feelings of inadequacy are not easily overcome.

    July 27, 2011 at 09:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Mary

    I am a recovering addict/alcoholic. My 19 year old son has inherited my disease and is still using. As I am self-employed and a nursing student, neither of us has health insurance. Last year, my son asked me for help getting off of opiates. He was in the throes of withdrawal, and I asked our family doctor for help. I was referred to the ER at the local university hospital (nationally renowned). At the ER, my son was lectured by one of the nurses about his "behavior". In addition, the social worker who saw him recommended (before NA or rehab) methadone. He jumped at that option (it was, after all, recommended by the health community). One year later, he no longer uses heroin. He does, however spend $500/month on methadone – eschewing all other health needs and life necessities (groceries, for one). In addition, while he no longer uses heroin, he drinks and smokes pot. He is depressed and despondent. (On top of everything, he owes thousands of dollars to the hospital for that ER visit). My son has a terrible disease. He is an addict and, as the article points out, is not able (on his own) to make healthy choices (no matter the cost). What is really galling (frustrating, tragic, incomprehensible) is how little our health systems do for addicts. Hazelden is an amazing facility and organization. Unfortunately, funding for rehab is limited and few of us can afford it. The option I took was to throw myself into AA 9 years ago, and I have been sober ever since (one day at a time). I know that I have work to do in my own program as I continue to struggle with resentment toward to social worker who recommended methadone to my son and the health system which cannot (or will not) help him.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Darkstar864

      Congratulations on your recovery! So sorry about your son.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:13 | Report abuse |
  38. Darkstar864

    Whatever happened to personal responsibility in not taking that addictive drug in the first place? Now THAT is a choice each one of us makes. It's a living hell for everyone involved. Some of you, like "Calgary Sandy", suggest we have abandoned them because it is easier for us. Perhaps you haven't had experience with addiction in your family but when your elderly mother is being abused by a violent drug addict sibling who lives with her and robs her blind and you have to sneak her out of the house to avoid violence for fear of them killing her in the night, you tell ME what YOU would do in that situation! Don't tell ME how to feel about addiction. I do NOT have the obligation to "save" someone from themselves when they do not want help.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Bob S

    Anyone who uses the word "choice" when talking about addiction is not sincerely interested in helping anyone. These people tend to be frustrated control freaks who want to remake everyone in their image. We all can't be Martha Stewart.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Darkstar864

      So who's fault is it then, Bob, when someone chooses to snort that first line of Cocaine or pick up that crack pipe, for example??? I think I know which "side" you're on from your statement.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:22 | Report abuse |
    • Bob S

      All behavior is a reaction based on past experiences and current environmental conditions. No individual has control over either one of these at the point in time that the behavior is put in action. Therefore there can never be a choice. Humans react – they don't choose.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:31 | Report abuse |
    • Bob S

      Learning is the process in which an individual develop skills to better make better predictions for the given environmental conditions. We react based on these predictions. School teaches us that if we do drugs bad things will happen. Or, that if we study hard good things will happen. If someone has not had proper early education or has been ridiculed since birth the prediction process becomes faulty and in your language bad choices are made. But, as I said, they should not be viewed as choices – they should be viewed as poor reactions based on compromised ability at predicting consequences.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:41 | Report abuse |
    • Bob S

      By the way it is you that aaid you have no interest in helping your addict sibbling. I am sorry for your situation – but your sibling is out of control because of his/her past not because of some choice at the present time. The situation in the world will never get better as long as we continue to place blame instead of looking for solutions.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:54 | Report abuse |
    • Erin

      Perhaps someone does make a "choice" to do drugs that first time, but most people get started when they are young and stupid, and think they are invincible. Or they are trying to escape from some unimaginable pain. They don't think they are going to become addicts. My husband is 32. He started drinking with friends when he was probably 20/21, just hanging out and getting drunk, the way many (if not most) young people seem to do these days. Twelve years later, he was drinking probably four handles of vodka a week. He has a history of alcoholism in his family (and his father was abusive when he was drunk). He never thought it would end up the way it did.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:48 | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      No place for free will in your bubble, huh Bob? What is the point of living if everything is predetermined? The lie that the "nonprofit" treatment centers perpetuate is that people have no willpower and cannot make their own choices. Sounds real empowering, huh?

      "Either you think you can or you think you can't, and either way you're right." – Henry Ford

      April 22, 2013 at 12:46 | Report abuse |
    • Cbd Drops

      Just about every time I'm online I am overwhelmed with useless information but I rely on your website for honest daily news. When I opened my phone your page was already loaded. I just can't say thanks enough times for what you have done here. Cool post, really useful. Like so many people, I try to learn a little bit more about myself each day.


      December 21, 2018 at 11:22 | Report abuse |
  40. R

    So it seems the only thing that has a chance of helping an addicted person is to physically remove them from their usual day-to-day life and place them in rehab facilities where they cannot get a hold of any substances they abuse. And keep them there for at least a year with all the therapy, etc., that they need. This is, of course, a pure fantasy since people over a certain age cannot be held against their will.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Addict

      You can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink it. It takes what it takes for the addict to seek a way out. 12 step programs are the most effective. The meetings are a source of hopes for addicts. These are frightened lonely people and meetings are therapy driven for people like us.

      July 27, 2011 at 10:55 | Report abuse |
  41. Susan

    I just lost my husband to "suicide by alcohol" or addiction. Everything described in this article was as though it was written specifically about him. He wanted so badly to beat the addiction and went through outpatient treatment three times.
    The problem as I see it is access to the treatment itself, and insurance companies who don't or won't understand how intense treatment needs to be and try to limit the amount of treatment and dollars spent on the individual. My husband needed intense inpatient help but we coudn't afford it. And the outpatient treatment we could afford (that insurance would pay for)was sub-standard. Our insurance wouldn't pay for inpatient help and the outpatient treatment was limited to a specific number of visits. How is that going to help someone, especially if they need multiple trips to rehab to get better.
    As is stated in the article, addiction of any kind is a lifelong battle and 30 days or 30 visits just isn't enough. Even if the addicted person has the money, they often make multiple attempts. I read another article just this morning that mentioned a treatment facility (Promises Treatment Center in Malibu, CA.) costing as much as $55,000 per month. The average person can't afford that. What are we supposed to do?
    I don't know that my husband would have survived had we had the funds for better treatment, but I do know it's a nasty life and a horrible death. I can only take solace knowing he is no longer in pain.

    July 27, 2011 at 10:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Brigit

    Many in my family have been destroyed by addiction, from gambling to drinking to smoking. It's a terrible disease. I've watched family members drink and smoke themselves to death, while others have lost huge sums of money to gambling. My brother and I have managed to steer clear of addictions, but the human and financial wreckage have taken their toll on us.

    I applaud the author for his compassion. And let's not forget that there is a genetic component to addiction. I've pretty much given up on my mother, but still love her. I wish she would get help, but her shame and anxiety are so crippling that she can barely leave the house.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. In the Mix

    I have worked in mental health and chemical dependency for over 15 years, and I now work in a housing program for people in recovery. I see the pain every day- every single day. Caused to both the families of adddicts, and addicts themselves. The question is why? Why do this to your life and the lives of others? And the answer is not cut and dry. It is a mix of issues that cause pain (and a lack a way to cope), create the addiction, the chemical imbalances, and the genetic issues. Some addicts have some control, some do not. I guess the only thing that I have to say about how we as a society currently deal with addiction is this: Addiction therapy is the only treatment that you are kicked out of for the same reason you are let in. It does not matter what you believe, whether it is a choice, a disease, or both. The treatment should be compassion for both families/friends of addicts, and addicts.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Cherie

    Where do I start? Met a great guy six months ago and recently became convinced that he may be the one, but it looks like he's an alcoholic. He travels the country during the week for work and according to him, he rarely drinks while traveling on business however, he makes up for lost time Friday through Saturday. He is wasted within hours of making it home and even wakes up several times through the night for refills (vodka). I've never been in a romantic relationship with an addict...I'm clueless Do I confront him about his suspected addiction or jump ship and cut my losses?

    July 27, 2011 at 11:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • pprty

      Tell him to get an alcohol evaluation and that he has to make the appointment NOW. Tell him you are getting out of the relationship NOW, and that if he gets treatment and is sober for a year, then you MIGHT see him again. Do not let him wiggle out of this. Be firm. YOU call the shots here. Lots of people commit before they know that one has a problem & then it's almost too late. You know the guy has a problem, so you have the ball in your court. Good luck.

      July 27, 2011 at 11:52 | Report abuse |
    • Cbd Products

      Some of my classmates have been recommending this website to me for a while now and I finally decided to check it out. I'm super bored to death at work so I decided to check out your website on my iphone during first period break. Once again, you are king. I will talk about this site with my Reddit meet up. Do you have any video of this? Thanks for sharing this awesome blog with us.


      December 25, 2018 at 21:45 | Report abuse |
  45. RodBinNC

    People tend to forget that this all starts with alcohol.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Casey Woods

      I sure do wish you would be my best friend. I have taken note of this advice and I plan on applying it next time I'm at work. I've been looking almost everywhere online for this information. You remind me of my roomate back in Texas.


      December 23, 2018 at 05:46 | Report abuse |
  46. Erin

    My husband is an alcoholic, and has been to rehab and is currently working hard to stay clean. I am noticing that the thing that is the hardest for him is dealing with even the tiniest bit of stress. He has NO coping mechanisms for dealing with even the slightest thing that life throws at him, because for years he'd just have a drink and feel numb. Now he is completely unprepared for the real world. I watch him think that he's going to get in trouble for some small thing that happened at work, and get himself to where he can't sleep and is physically ill, simply because he doesn't have mechanism to calm himself down. All he wants is to have a drink, and I am lucky that he's being up front about those feelings, so I can help him get through it (even if that just means I hold onto the car keys and try to talk him through it). I wish rehab would have better prepared him for actually living sober, and not just educating him about the disease and giving statistics. I don't know how to help him develop coping mechanisms, and it's frustrating!

    July 27, 2011 at 11:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • pprty

      Erin, you're making his problem your problem (very common). Have you read any Al Anon material? Get some help for yourself or you will go crazy. You need to be healthy and the way to do it is to go for co-dependant counseling for yourself.

      July 27, 2011 at 12:07 | Report abuse |
  47. Bud

    As long as alleged experts continue to adhere to the Disease Model for Addiction, addicts will have that as an excuse, rather than taking personal responsibility for their destructive behavior. I have suffered through both alcoholism and head colds, but my head cold never required me to stop off on the way home for a 12-park of mucus.

    July 27, 2011 at 11:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Denman

      That's about the stupidest analogy I've ever read. Rock on, dude. I bet you're a scream at paries.

      July 27, 2011 at 13:15 | Report abuse |
  48. Rick

    Addiction is not a disease. There is no credible evidence that addiction is brain based. It is behavioral based. Simply put you have a choice. As long as we use 12 step programs to try and cure addictions which have about a 5% success rate, more people will continue to make bad decisions. The 12 step system tells the person they are hopeless to the disease and only a higher being (God) can help them be cured. If you have just 1 drink you are considered to have relapsed. Why are all the alcohol addictions predominantly from the U.S.? Because in European countries kids are taught how to consume an alcoholic beverage at an early age at home ( exp.wine with dinner). They dont drink to get drunk. Cognitive therapy is the way to go to kick these bad habits. Creating strategies for making good decisions. It comes down to money. As long as Insurance companies pay for these 12 step programs and not behavioral therapy people will continue to be led astray of getting some real help. Why do you drink to ease the pain? That's the core of the problem. Work on the why and the behavior can change.

    July 27, 2011 at 12:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob

      Are you saying the brain has nothing to do with behavior?

      July 27, 2011 at 13:58 | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      I really hope that you are not a health professional.

      July 27, 2011 at 13:59 | Report abuse |
  49. MM

    AA is free. You cannot force an addict into treatment. They need to want it. They either hit rock bottom and die or "see the light" and seek help. In my experience (18yrs. sober) only I can take responsibility for myself and my actions.I am married to an addict (sober 21 yrs.) I too can relate to the heartbreak/hardship. For those of you struggling with an addict, please stop blaming the addict for how miserable you are. Take responsibility for yourself and find peace.

    July 27, 2011 at 12:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • WOW

      How refreshing to read about a healthy approach to this disease. The best we can do for our sick loved ones is take care of ourselves and let their own consequences break through the denial so they can take care of themselves. Detach with love! We do not kick a sick animal when its down so how dare we kick a sick person. A person in the throws of addiction must hit their own bottom. We can not kick them to the bottom. Our love, prayers and faith help immensely to keep the light on for when the addict is ready.

      July 27, 2011 at 13:00 | Report abuse |
    • pprty

      I've seen many addicts get treatment as a result of bringing up the bottom to hit the addict. Such as interventions (work and family ones), calling the cops to be on the look out for licence number of person driving drunk, etc. The addict doesn't always have to go all the way to hitting bottom on their own.

      July 27, 2011 at 16:58 | Report abuse |
  50. livinlife420

    Hello...this is just my opinion on how I dealt with my addiction to hydrocodone. I was a nurse for 22 years, needed dental work and was prescribed hydrocodone for my pain. As more dental work was being performed, I started becoming "physically addicted" to hydrocodone. Thoughout the next year I started taking more and more pills because I liked the way they gave me "energy" (albeit false energy). At the end of my dental work and that year I was full fledged hooked. I resorted to buying them off the streets and eventually ended up taking them from work. Of course i was in denial I had a problem.....Eventually over the course of the next five years...I lost my nursing license(and rightfully so). I tried several programs and even used Suboxone to help with withdrawls. I still returned to taking pills. My take on this is it is not a Disease ....a disease is something YOU have no control over. We as addicts...use because we like the feeling! Now I am not saying there arent emotional issues that NEED to be dealt with in order to learn healthy behaviour on how to deal with LIFE....In my opinion your hands dont control your brain. I have been off of hydrocodone for 3 years now....It is like anything we ingest in place of dealing with problems. But I am a firm believer in IT is Mind strongness! My mind controls my body.....stay strong Addicts!

    July 27, 2011 at 13:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Robert

      I applaud that you were able to kick your drug addict. But I disagree with you on the concept of will power saved you. (mind power as you said). You say you like how it made you feel, that is a powerful indication that you are an addict. Most people who have taken them say they don't like the way they feel and stop taking them when needed. There comes the question of why, and the best answer I know of is that there is a chemical change (in your brain) that happens when you become addict or an alcoholic(that is always there even after you are sober). I didn’t become an addict after using for awhile, I was born this way, I loved the way I felt the first time I used anything to alter my mind and I would do anything to keep that feeling. I didn't have any choice on how I felt when I used, I just knew I needed it and wanted. My answer has been to not take that first drink or pill, I have control over that (tenuous at best). If I take that first drink I am lost and have no control on what may happen.

      I have been sober for almost too years, but it has been a struggle. Most people who quit like you without any support usually don’t make. I would suggest some kind of support because there will be a time when you will be tempted and no amount of will power will help, only somebody else who has been there before, to give you a helping hand.

      July 27, 2011 at 14:03 | Report abuse |
    • livinlife420

      Sorry I didn't make that clear in the above post....I did have a great support system from family and friends. I have been tempted too many times to count. I did not mean to sound blase about anything... I just think number 1; No one could "help" me till I made the choice that my life and family meant more to me than pills. Number 2: I have socially drank since becoming an adult and never became addicted to anything before the pills. The only difference in my life was what had happened emotionally (divorce,death of a parent) I am a 45 year old woman who being born in the 60's have dabbled with marajuana and drinking from early adulthood. Now that does not make me an addict.....so for me it is mind control and being a strong individual to keep your priorities in mind.

      July 27, 2011 at 14:19 | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      I am glad you a support system and use it. I too grew up in the 60s and I started using and I was off to the races. I didn't have any type of emotional reason for it except I liked it. I have been to the er and icu more times than I would like to admit, and that didn't stop me. Family and friends couldn't stop me. There are people who say I have a choice to stop and that all I have to do is to want to stop. In a sense they are correct ,I have to want to stop and get help, unfortunately there are only 3 reasons I will stop, one is that I have died(happens a lot to addicts) I am incarcerated(another that happens a lot) or the pain of drinking becomes more than the pain of living(only addicts understand this one). Then I can get help.

      You maybe one of the lucky few who can go on with there normal lives after addiction to pills and not become cross addicted . I have known a few nurses and doctors you like you who got hooked on pain pills and kicked it, but got hooked on some other drug or alcohol later.

      Like I said I don’t believe in the mind control over addiction, but I have learned that it is ok to agree to disagree. Hope for the best to you and your family

      July 27, 2011 at 14:35 | Report abuse |
    • livinlife420

      Robert I too wish you the best! I totally understand your point of view and am only saying this worked for me...and yes I know what you mean about cross addiction (replacing ur drug/alcohol of choice with another addiction)(even food) LOL
      Yes you and I will agree to disagree. Allways respectfully yours

      July 27, 2011 at 15:09 | Report abuse |
    • Robert


      July 27, 2011 at 15:20 | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

« Previous entry
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.