Addiction is a disease that can be successfully treated with an integrated treatment programme. Whether there is a cure for addiction is a matter of interpretation of the word “cure”. You may live with addiction forever, but there’s always hope you’ll be healed.
What does ‘cure’ mean?
The broad definition of ‘cure’ means to “heal, make well, restore to good health”. It also means a time without recurrence of a disease or the risk of recurrence is small. The medical term ‘cure’ means that, after medical treatment, the patient no longer lives with that particular condition. In other words, it’s removed permanently from their body.
Interestingly, the word ‘cure’ comes from Cura, a divine figure whose name means care, attention or concern in Latin.
Is ‘cure’ the correct term for addiction treatment? Certainly, patients receive an abundance of care, attention and concern as they’re nursed back to good health and heal from their addiction. However, the reality is permanent brain changes cannot be reversed, and you will always be vulnerable to relapse.
What is the medical definition of addiction?
Addiction is defined as a chronic relapsing disorder characterised by compulsive drug seeking and continued use, despite harmful consequences and long-lasting changes in brain structure and function.
What is the difference between physical dependence, tolerance and addiction?
Addiction is a journey; it doesn’t happen overnight. Substance use disorder starts with physical dependence, develops into tolerance and then becomes an addiction. It’s essential to know the difference between the three because it helps us understand the disease better.
Physical dependence develops with regular – daily or almost daily – use of an illegal or legal substance. When you stop using alcohol or drugs, withdrawal symptoms emerge as you adjust to not having the substance in your body. Individuals who are dependent on substances are not necessarily addicted to them. However, a physical dependence can lead to cravings to relieve the withdrawal symptoms, which takes you further down the road to addiction.
Tolerance develops when you need to take higher doses of a drug or drink more alcohol to get the same effect as when you first started consuming the substance. Your brain changes to adjust to dopamine surges, and you no longer respond to the reward effects in the same way you did initially.
Dependence typically merges into tolerance without you noticing it. More importantly, tolerance does not indicate an addiction, and neither does dependence.
Addiction is a chronic disorder characterised by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite negative, possibly fatal, consequences. Substance use disorder is the clinical term for addiction. Addiction is a complex disease that disrupts areas of the brain that are responsible for reward, motivation, emotional development, learning and judgement.
Nearly all addictive substances cause dopamine surges that change how your brain works and functions. Dopamine is a chemical messenger that’s associated with our natural pleasure and reward system. Excess dopamine overstimulates the brain’s reward system. To maintain a balanced state, your brain makes adjustments to minimise its reaction to the neurochemical.
Over time, the continued release of dopamine causes brain changes that can be permanent. You end up using more of the substance more often to feel the same effects, and if you stop using the drug or alcohol, you’ll experience intense cravings for it.
Why is addiction hard to cure?
Some diseases can be cured, but many have no cure. These include cancer, dementia, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis motor neurone disease, and advanced lung, heart, kidney and liver disease. Addiction is one of those diseases which has no easy fix or clinical cure.
Substance use disorder changes your brain chemistry, often permanently. Disrupted brain function makes you vulnerable to physical, emotional and environmental cues that can trigger a relapse. Changes to your reward pathways remain after you stop using drugs or alcohol, and you’ll battle powerful cravings for a long time after you quit.
Addiction is classified as a chronic relapsing disorder for this reason, and it’s why the medical and psychotherapy world acknowledge that there is no cure for addiction. An integrated addiction treatment programme will help you break your physical dependence on drugs or alcohol, and you’ll return to normal tolerance levels in time. However, the risk of relapse is a constant worry for people in recovery.
Does this mean you’l live with addiction forever
If addiction is an incurable disease, does it mean your situation is hopeless? No, far from it. Addiction can be treated successfully with an integrated treatment programme. With a better understanding of the disorder and a holistic approach to recovery, you can live a fulfilling life without drugs or alcohol.
It would help if you approached addiction in the same way as you would any incurable disease. Hundreds and thousands of people live full and healthy lives with chronic illnesses. If you have diabetes, you manage your blood glucose levels with a diet plan and take prescribed medication. If you are allergic to seafood or nuts, you avoid them at all costs.
Likewise, with substance use disorder, you’ll manage your risk of relapse with tools given to you in psychotherapy, and you’ll follow a treatment plan to heal mind, body and soul. Substance use disorder may be something you’ll live with forever, but at least you’ll be alive and living your best life.
We’re here to help.
Contact us today if you’d like a confidential and free chat with one of our highly-trained addiction professionals at White River Manor in South Africa.
White River Manor publishes fact-based content on mental health disorders and substance use disorders that provides insight into these conditions and treatment options. We aim to improve your understanding of disorders that negatively impact your daily life, and we offer advice on what treatment is available to enhance your quality of life. The information we provide should not substitute the advice of a medical health care practitioner, diagnosis or medical treatment.