Substance addiction is defined as an individual’s uncontrolled or repeated use of drugs or alcohol despite the negative consequences related to that use. It is a physical brain disease with behavioral manifestations.

“Substance abuse and addiction is a pervasive disease not a moral failing or easily abandoned self indulgence that cuts indiscriminately across all socio-economic strata of America’s population.”
- C. Everett Coop, U.S. Surgeon General (retired)

Those with addictions become dependent on mood-altering substances resulting in bio-psycho-social problems that permeate their lives. Many people use potentially addictive substances for short-term gratification. Those with addictions develop long-term consequences leading to pain and discomfort for themselves and others. Often such individuals, even when abstinent, are thinking about drugs or alcohol and are planning, and looking forward to using them again: this is the obsessional component of the disorder. Frequently drugs and/or alcohol are used to relieve the pain created by their use: this is the compulsive component of the disorder. These obsessive and compulsive qualities distinguish addiction from social use.

Addiction is distinguished from “social” alcohol or drug use by the lack of freedom of choice. Using a mood-altering substance is a choice. Addiction is a condition that robs a person of choice and dictates the frequency, the quantity, and the nature of the use. All addiction begins with use, but not all use leads to addiction.

Addiction is a physical brain disease. Drugs and alcohol acutely modify mood, memory, perception, and emotional states. Excessive use of addictive substances over time changes brain structure and function in fundamental ways that can persist long after the individual stops using them. Like victims of other diseases, substance abusers have a biological predisposition to developing the disease. Some estimate that between 50% and 70% of the susceptibility to developing an addiction can be accounted for by genetic factors.

What makes addiction unique among brain diseases is that it begins with a clearly voluntary behavior — the initial decision to use a potentially harmful and habit-forming substance. Having this brain disease does not absolve one of responsibility for one’s behavior. It explains, however, why such individuals cannot simply stop using substances by sheer force of will alone. It also dictates a much more sophisticated approach to dealing with the array of problems surrounding substance abuse and addiction.

Identifying Addictions

When it comes to identifying addictions, one should remember that “if you suspect there is a problem, there probably is one.” People with addictions are so driven to continue using drugs or alcohol that they are very cunning at hiding the problem, not only from others but also from themselves. They often fail to see the inevitable changes in their functioning at work, home and with friends; changes that are invariably noticed by others. They have trouble paying attention; their efficiency falls off; they may become isolated or change their circle of friends. Often they develop a lack of concern about physical appearance or dress and a loss of interest in usual pursuits. Unexplained absences can occur, leading to defensiveness and anger when questioned. An unexplained need for money may surface. Symptoms of substance abuse may include onset of any of the following:

  • Inconsistent Performance
  • Embarrassing Situations
  • Impairment of Speech
  • Reduction in Productivity
  • Inability to Stay Focused
  • Dishonesty
  • Irresponsibility
  • Mood Swings
  • Impaired Judgment
  • Inappropriate Behavior
  • Pathological Lying
  • Recklessness
  • Paranoid Thinking
  • Unexplained Absences
  • Confusion
  • Blaming
  • Withdrawal
  • Immaturity
  • Violence
  • Impulsivity

Most ordinary treatment today has been reduced to a 30 day program - which is not nearly long enough to be successful. To learn how this has come about read more about Ordinary Treatments.

Substance addiction begins with the loss of social connection and psychological balance, then leads to the loss of biological health. Recovery occurs in the reverse order when substance use ceases. Biological stability is achieved first, followed by psychological, then social rehabilitation.

While most 30 day residential treatments can effectively restore biological stability, they often fail because of inadequate resources of time and money to address the psychological and social aspects of the disorder. Turning Point For Leaders is designed to rectify this problem.