What is Addiction?

Among experts and clinicians, there is no one agreed upon definition of addiction. At Olympia House in our substance abuse treatment programs, we define addiction as a chronic disease in which an individual continues to use a substance, despite harm. This harm is often to oneself, to family and friends, or those with whom he or she works.

Human beings have had relationships with substances that alter the mind for thousands of years. Drugs have often been used as medicines in the context of ritualistic settings, and unfortunately, addiction to these substances has also been with us nearly as long. In fact, it can be traced to when cultures first utilized fermentation – the process that produces alcohol. Chemical dependency and substance abuse treatment over the years has changed, incorporating new advances in our understandings of science, medicine, and psychology.

At Olympia House, we know how far addiction treatment has come, and we also know how far we need to go, in order to save lives and redefine the stigma that has plagued those who suffer from chemical dependency for centuries. We believe in our clients and residents because we see healing and recovery every day. We take addiction, its history, and the many complex facets of the disease into context as we provide cutting-edge substance abuse treatment at our beautiful Sonoma County facility. Wherever you are located in the United States or in the San Francisco Bay Area we invite you to explore the diversity of resources we offer on our website for yourself or a family member.

Substance Abuse Involves Complex Interactions of Mind, Body, and Spirit

The circumstances that lead individuals to abuse drugs or alcohol are rarely simple. Just like biological factors such as one genetics (a person’s DNA) can lead to disease of the body like cancer or inflammation, genetics too plays a role in the development of addiction or substance abuse. Evidence suggests that some of us are more predisposed to addictive behaviors and are more likely to continue using drugs and alcohol despite harm.

Addiction’s cause, however, is more than a biological or genetic one. A person’s environment including how an individual is raised, their relationships, previous trauma, or other underlying or co-occurring disorders often play substantial–and at times underestimated–roles in the development of the disease. Addiction may also occur alongside physical health conditions including chronic pain.

Addiction for these reasons is often a coping mechanism whose intent is to alter one’s mind in an attempt to feel better or even just to feel “normal.” It becomes clear that for some individuals the roots of their disease travels beyond their body or mind. We know that addiction is a fight for survival and that the disease can present an existential or spiritual misalignment for many.

At Olympia House, during drug or alcohol substance abuse treatment, we do not just support one view of addiction. As every person is different, we build your substance abuse treatment program around your needs and preferences. We will fight to help you regain your life.

Addiction is a Brain Disease

When a drug enters the human body it can change it. Some drugs are able to enter the human brain and cause a change in a person’s behavior. In the brain, chemicals called neurotransmitters which help signal (or talk) between different parts of the brain can become altered (or changed). Most drugs of abuse work on one of these brain chemical neurotransmitters called dopamine. Dopamine is known as the “feel-good,” neurotransmitter because it causes feelings of pleasure and euphoria. It is meant to reward behaviors that keep us alive, like eating and drinking. During addictive cycles, however, dopamine and other brain chemicals become less abundant. The brain becomes less susceptible to dopamine which produces withdrawal symptoms. Along with the brain chemicals, the structure of the brain also changes as it becomes more suited towards behaviors that constitute addiction or substance use disorder.

What is Tolerance, Chemical Dependency and Withdrawal?

During chemical dependency, one’s brain becomes less sensitive to his or her own neurotransmitters. The drug or substance is creating “tolerance” in the dependent patient, drug user or alcoholic. The process of addiction is a vicious cycle because more and more of the drug is needed to attain the same rewarding feelings. The person becomes dependent on the drug even to feel “normal.” When there is no access to the drug, the brain becomes out of balance and withdrawal symptoms emerge. These withdrawal symptoms can be agonizing from opioids or stimulants and can be life-threatening from prescription drugs such as benzos and from alcohol.

Medication Assisted Detox to Curb Withdrawal

The process of withdrawal can be extremely traumatizing. If a person suffering from substance use disorder undergoes an agonizing detox this can greatly contribute to the likelihood of them relapsing and may even lead to chronic relapse. At Olympia, we provide a safe and comforting environment. Paired with medications to ease withdrawal symptoms, this ensures comfort during detox.

Olympia’s Substance Abuse Treatment Program Understands Addiction

Later while at rehab and during aftercare and recovery, we encourage and utilize medication-assisted treatment (MAT). MAT is part of a larger holistic effort by Olympia House to provide substance abuse treatment that has demonstrated promise by respected researchers and clinicians around the world. Not only does Olympia House provide both intensive outpatient and residential treatment, but also offers addiction psychotherapy and individualized substance abuse counseling. These approaches integrated with Olympia’s innovations in equine therapy, dynamic group therapies, and mental health counseling provide a framework that we use to address addiction as a disease of brain, mind, body, and spirit.

We practice this evidence-based, individualized, and integrative philosophy at Olympia and we work every day to celebrate the diversity and resilience of our clients and residents. This fuels us to help our residents and clients live their lives free form the grasps of addiction and substance abuse.

Recovering from Drug and Alcohol Abuse: The Brain Can Heal Itself

Although the human brain is very easily changed by the presence of drugs and alcohol, it is equally changed by healthy habits, healing behaviors, evidence-based treatments and determination to enter recovery. Neuroscience demonstrates that healing is always possible at any age. At Olympia House, should you choose us as your substance abuse treatment center, we will treat you with dignity and respect. We know that recovery can be attained because at Olympia House these miracles happen every day.

If you or a loved one is experiencing a substance use disorder, then please do not hesitate to contact us here or (888) 795-1965.

It would be our honor to assist you in your journey to regain your life.