Although addiction’s effect on the brain is often discussed, it doesn’t have its own denomination. But what if addiction could be considered one among many kinds of learning disorders? An article, entitled “Can You Get Over an Addiction?”, by Maia Szalavitz uses scientific explanation and the author’s personal experience to reason that an addiction is a learning disorder. Szalavitz opens her article informing the reader of her drug use during her college years in the 1980s. She noticed that there are “two schools of thought” when it comes to addiction. The first, usually used by loved ones of a drug abuser, concludes that the addiction is a disease that the user has no control over. While the second, sees drug users as devious criminals that have no regard for their actions. Szalavitz believes that neither are true.
“We are long overdue for a new perspective — both because our understanding of the neuroscience underlying addiction has changed and because so many existing treatments simply don’t work.” –Szalavitz
Addiction affects how the brain processes information. Unlike brain diseases and cancer, addiction is not “a degenerative pathology”. Szalavitz uses this fact to argue that addiction is a learning disorder rather than a disease. Through animal research, scientists have begun to understand which parts of the brain play a role in addiction. This research has found that addiction alters the brain’s motivations and pleasures. This results in the brain’s priorities changing. The brain’s focus now becomes on the drug instead of biological drives. Szalavitz explains her personal response, claiming, “Once I experienced the relief heroin gave me, I felt as though I couldn’t survive without it.”
How to Treat Addiction as a Learning Disorder
The author believes that compassion is better for treating addiction than punishment. She argues love and understanding is the best way to help drug users restore their brains. In traditional recovery and twelve step programs, people are pushed to apologize for their past actions. Szalavitz thinks apologies are not necessary nor helpful and points out that people with a learning disorder are never asked to apologize. To learn more about addiction and learning disorders, check out the source article at the New York Times website. If recovery focuses on healing the brain with time and love, instead of humiliation and pain, more will be able to overcome addiction.
Hayver’s unique Circle of Support is one such method that allows for healing with time and love. Through this method, those in recovery stay connected to their own personal support system. For more information, contact Hayver at info(at)hayver.com today.