Drug addiction is comparable to other chronic, relapsing conditions or diseases, and drug addiction can be managed successfully. And, as with other chronic diseases, it is not uncommon for a person to relapse and begin abusing drugs again. Relapse, however, does not signal failure-rather, it indicates that treatment should be re-started, adjusted, or that an alternate treatment method is needed to help the addict regain control and recover.

What is drug addiction?

Most people, who do not abuse drugs, do not understand why addicts become addicted to drugs or how drugs change the brain to promote compulsive drug abuse. Non drug users view drug abuse and addiction as strictly a social problem and may characterize those who take drugs as morally weak. One very common belief is that drug abusers should be able to just stop taking drugs if they are willing to change their behavior. What people often underestimate is the complexity of drug addiction-that it is a disease that impacts the brain and because of that, quitting drugs is not simply a matter of willpower.

Drug addiction is a chronic, often relapsing disease that causes compulsive drug use despite harmful consequences to the individual who is addicted. Drug addiction is a brain disease because the abuse of drugs leads to changes in the formation and function of the brain. Although it is true that for most people the initial decision to take drugs is voluntary, over time the changes in brain function caused by repeated drug abuse can affect a person’s self control and their ability to make sound decisions and increase the person’s craving for drugs.

Because of these changes in the brain an addict will find it challenging to stop abusing drugs. Fortunately, there are treatments that may help an addict to counteract the drug’s powerful disruptive effects. Research shows that combining addiction treatment medications, if available, with behavioral therapy is the best way to ensure success for most patients. Treatment approaches that are tailored to each patient’s drug abuse patterns and any co-occurring medical, psychiatric, and social problems can lead to sustained recovery and a life without drug abuse.