Just stop having cancer…a question of addiction.

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Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors (American Society of Addiction Medicine, 2011).

Bla, bla, bla, right? What does that even mean? The human race is constantly in search of something to make them feel good. A date, a friend, shopping, crafting, gambling…the list is infinite. What the quote is saying is that some people are wired differently and find a physical need to find something to make them feel good and never let it go.

Addiction presents itself in various manifestations. Is one better than the other? Who is to say? The fact is that addiction is classified as a disease process like diabetes, renal failure or cancer. Just because it can’t be seen by the naked eye doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

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Imagine a walk through a hospital. Let’s briefly imagine the following patients: Mr. Sugar, Ms. Kidney, Mrs. Tumor and Mr. Junkie.

Mr. Sugar is a diabetic. He receives insulin to manage his glucose and dietary support to help control his nutrition and weight management. Ms. Kidney is connected to a dialysis machine three days a week to filter her blood because her body will no longer do it for her. Mrs. Tumor, thin and frail, is being injected with toxic chemotherapy because her body can’t fight the metastatic cancer raging inside her. Then of course, there is Mr. Junkie. We see him shaking, sweating and a little confused because he is withdrawing from the opiates he became addicted to after he broke his foot at work. We might judge him or treat him differently because he ‘chose’ to take those drugs. Can’t he just stop? Can’t Mr. Junkie just not need those drugs?

The answer is no. Would you ever find yourself telling someone to, “just make your own insulin”. “Gosh Ms. Kidney, I guess you shouldn’t have eaten so much sodium and ruined your kidneys, can’t you just get better?” Or the most repulsive of all, “Mrs. Tumor, I’m sorry we will have to terminate your career since you went and got ‘the cancer’.” Like all diseases and illnesses, there is of course a plethora of variables and causes to each pathology. Genetics, environmental, and psycho social influences all play a part in a person’s physical and mental well being. The point is that no one chooses to be sick. No one wants to be dependent on something to get out of bed every day or even live to see tomorrow.

With addiction and the heroin epidemic becoming such a profound presence in our society, it is important to become educated on preventing and treating this disease. In truth, addicts are the lucky ones when it comes to treatment. If we seek medical help to detox and adhere to a sober lifestyle, we can recover. My treatment is a support meeting a few times a week, that I get to go to. Ms. Kidney would die without four hour dialysis sessions every other day.

To educate, is to prevent. To provide treatment is to empower. Be part of the solution, not the problem.



American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2011, April 19). Definition of Addiction. Retrieved September 20, 2016, from The American Society of Addiction Medicine: http://www.asam.org/quality-practice/definition-of-addiction