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Addiction’s a Chronic Disease, Not A Moral Failure—Here’s Why

caron-headerExperts from Caron Treatment Centers share their insight on America’s largest, but most preventable, chronic disease – substance use disorder, otherwise known as addiction. As Dr. Joseph Garbely, Caron’s EVP of Medical Services & Medical Director says, “Addiction is a true chronic disease of the brain and it has to be treated like any other disease.”

How can we prevent the addiction epidemic from growing?

Dr. Joseph Garbely, DO, DFASAM, Vice President of Medical Services and Medical Director: Like any other chronic disease, we need to engage in prevention. People need to be educated on the signs that can manifest into addiction. Families and caregivers need to intervene now if they suspect there is an issue or an underlying issue, such as a family history where addiction was prevalent, mental health issues or even trauma.

Are there predispositions that put patients at risk for developing an addiction?

Bradley Sorte, MSW, MBA, Executive Vice President and Managing Director of the Florida Continuum: Oftentimes there’s a primary issue that’s fueling the secondary behavior of drug and alcohol abuse. We need to look at the potential risk factors causing them to be susceptible to substance abuse, including genetic predisposition. Are they coming from a fractured family with a history of abuse? Were they neglected? What age did they first use? What are their underlying mental issues? We need to monitor at-risk patients the same way we would monitor someone with a family history of cardiovascular disease.

What are some of the key signs that there’s a problem?

Ryan Hanson, MA, CAP, Executive Director of Caron Renaissance: If a loved one hasn’t moved ahead in their relationships, career, or other areas of life, there may be a problem. The earlier we can intervene, the better off. The myth of waiting until someone’s hit rock bottom or must admit they have a problem, is gone. You wouldn’t say to someone who needed to go to the hospital to wait until they’re almost dead, you would get them there as soon as possible. The same thinking applies to addiction. Earlier intervention may make for a shorter course of treatment and easier recovery.

What do you feel is the biggest misconception about addiction?

Cheryl Knepper, MA, LPC, Senior Vice President of Clinical Operations: Individuals and their families, who struggle with the disease of addiction often feel they’ve failed morally. They believe they aren’t a good person. But addiction is a brain disease that can be treated like any other chronic illness. Through our full spectrum of care, we assess, educate, treat and awaken both the patient and their families on how to address this disease.

If you suspect that you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction, it is never too early to take the next step and learn more about this disease. Visit Caron.org to learn more and get connected with a professional. We are Caron. Real About Recovery.