Addiction: A Brain Disease

Addiction: A Brain Disease

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Nobody starts out with a plan to get addicted to something, but it happens to about 23 million Americans, nearly 1 in 10. Dr. Zach Sneed, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in a first of its kind program at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center called Addiction Counseling. He says they are teaching the medical community what addiction is and what it is not.

First, Dr. Sneed explains the scientific definition of addition, "It's a complex brain disease that develops after repeated and escalated exposure."

But in simple terms, he adds, "It's not that they're lazy or not wanting to change. It's that they're dealing with a legitimate brain disease. It's not a moral failing... and people still have some of those ideas. But the thing that is really different now is that when people reach out and get help, and when they stay engaged with that treatment team, it works. Treatment works and recovery is possible."

Dr. Sneed says addiction has nothing to do with willpower. Instead, he says as the disease develops, there are changes in the brain in its structure and function. So, it's not just a bad habit that needs to be fixed. He says instead, addiction counselors work on addressing the whole person to help them heal.

Also, he says we tend to think of major illegal drugs as the biggest lure for addiction problems. But he adds we can't overlook a lot of addictions that can be just as debilitating, like gambling, excessive eating or internet gaming disorder, a new problem that is getting more attention.

Dr. Sneed says we know that addictions tend to run in families. But he says don't judge your own risk by that. "Because it can elevate someone's risk but that does not mean that the person is going to develop addiction. At the same time, people develop addiction without any family member having a history of that."

Just as Texas Tech University was the first in the country to develop a Center for the Study of Addiction and Recovery, the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center is now the first in the country to launch a program of Addiction Counseling. You can find out more about that by contacting the Department of Clinical Counseling and Mental Health at TTUHSC.

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