If you have been to treatment you have undoubtedly heard the phrase “addiction is a progressive disease.”
If you are an untreated addict, you will undoubtedly find out how true that is… one way or another.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room. For the sake of this article we will not be taking a stand on whether addiction is a disease or not. Most in the field agree that it is, some do not agree with the disease concept. Whatever your stance, we think you will find this article to have relevance on the progressiveness of addiction.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as such:
“Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.”
You may be wondering, what do they mean when they say that it is progressive??
The short version – without treatment, addiction never get’s better. It always get worse.
There are anomalies in the equation. There are people who noticed that drugs and alcohol were having a negative impact on their lives and found a way to bring it under control. I know some of these people.
The majority of active addicts are unable to control their using.
How Exactly Does Addiction Get Worse??
The best answer to this question probably lies in your own personal experience.
If you are in recovery I would bet money that you can personally attest to your own addiction getting worse over time. This can be shown in a variety of ways.
- You had to drink or use more and more to feel the desired effect
- You used or drank more and more often
- You did more and more horrendous things to get your fix
- Your financial and living situations got worse over time
- Your relationships deteriorated over time
Everything in your life will get worse over time as your addiction progressively gets worse.
If you can attest to any of this being true, well… the proof is in the pudding.
Does Addiction Progressively Effect the Mind and Body as Well?
You don’t need to rely on experience for this one. There have been countless studies that show the ill effects of all drugs over time and how they progressively attribute to a decline in mental and physical well being.
No drug – not even Marijuana – has a long term positive effect on your health. *sorry Colorado*
Just to list a few
- Alcohol will break down your liver enzymes, your kidneys and can even lead to a condition called “Wernicke – Korsakoff Syndrom“
- Heroin and other opiates will totally destroy your body, in more ways then one
- Cocaine and methamphetamine can cause permanent psychological damage
- Xanax can actually make anxiety worse once the drug is not used any more
- Marijuana causes memory loss and lung damage
Are There Any Ways Around It?
That is what addiction is. There aren’t any ways to cheat. Once addiction has you in it’s clutch, it is not going to get better. Sorry to have to be the one to tell you.
It can be very frustrating. We deal a lot with people (especially young people) who are looking for help. They call when they are desperate and at the time are willing to do anything. We get them set up to a facility or a counselor and the next day (usually after they are no longer in withdrawal and have had a good meal) they no longer want help.
Many times we hear responses such as…
-“I just need to get things under control.”
-“I just had a weak moment.”
-“I feel a lot better I’m going to get my shit together.”
There’s not much we can do for them at that point. We are never going to convince someone if they are an addict or not but it can be really heartbreaking for us because we know what they do not know. We know that it is only going to get worse for them and hopefully they get help before they get dead.
Everyone has a different story but we see a few patterns in the people we talk to.
Usually people start in their teens. They may start with smoking cigarettes and stealing beers from their parents. One day they might take a hit of a joint. A year later maybe they experiment with something a little harder. They progress to something a little more intense. Maybe they try cocaine or painkillers for the first time. They like it but eventually its just not enough.
They start taking stronger drugs and take them more often. When they are in withdrawal they drink until they are incapacitated to help with the withdrawal symptoms.
They start stealing. They do anything for money, for that next high. In active addiction people do things they never would have imagined they would do.
Somewhere along the way the line is crossed. The invisible line that separates the recreational drinker from the addict. There is a cheesy slogan that always stuck with me.
“You can turn a cucumber into a pickle but you can’t turn a pickle back into a cucumber.” Addicts are pickles, they can never go back.
As with anything in life, there are a million different viewpoints on the subject. We generally don’t take a strong stance on many viewpoints because we have no interest being in the debate committee. Most of what we write and report is based on our own experience and therefore can not be argued.
Our experience tells us that addiction is progressive. Addiction will always be progressive. Without help, it is only going to get worse.
With help however, you may find that your addiction turns into one of your strengths. You may find that the lessons your addiction and your recovery have taught you have shaped who you are as a person and have made you specially equipped to help other people in need.
If you agree or if you feel differently, we would love to hear your stance. Don’t forget to share and leave a comment!