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What is Addiction?

The National Council on Alcoholism describes alcoholism as “a complex, progressive disease in which the use of alcohol interferes with health, social and economic functioning. “Left untreated, chemical dependency results in a physical incapacity, permanent mental damage and/or premature death.”

La Hacienda does not view addiction as a moral issue. Addiction to alcohol or other drugs, including prescription drugs, is defined as a medical illness. It is every bit as much an illness as diabetes or an allergy to bee stings. Chemical dependency is now known to rank with heart disease and cancer as one of American’s three major health problems.

The Disease Process

Addiction is a disease. It possesses all the qualities that describe the phenomena of disease:

  • It is involuntary
  • It follows a predictable course
  • It causes suffering

Addiction affects, and ultimately destroys, the body, mind and spirit.

Addiction is a process of destructive repetitions that is eventually manifested by:

  • An inward compulsion (powerlessness) and
  • External and internal negative consequences (unmanageability)

Hereditary, psychological and social factors interact as risks, however once an addiction is activated it becomes a primary, autonomous process.

Addiction progresses by:

  • Changing the chemistry of the brain and
  • Increasingly appropriating areas of the psychic apparatus that mediate choice, reason, accountability and satisfaction.

Therefore the organ that is diseased can no longer be relied upon to act in its own defense.

Strategies to overcome addiction that are:

  • Strictly physical (enforced abstinence, nutrition, medications) or
  • Strictly psychological (therapy, operant conditioning) or
  • Strictly social (therapeutic communities, education, job training)

have not shown persuasive evidence of success.

The roles of treatment are to:

  • Protect the addict from toxic substances and their effects
  • Reduce obstacles to abstinence such as concurrent physical or mental illness and family or social pathology
  • Build awareness in the addict of the need for life-long help.

The Twelve Step program of recovery, originated by Alcoholics Anonymous, has stood the test of time as the most effective, most available and least expensive way for addicted people to become satisfied with abstinence. Satisfied abstinence is sobriety.

Recovery begins when a person encounters deflation at depth, followed by a spiritual experience. The addict changes his/her approach to the disease: instead of being responsible for controlling it, he/she becomes responsible for seeking help. (“I can’t. God can. I think I’ll let Him.”)