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Is There a Difference Between Alcoholism and Addiction?

Alcoholism and drug addiction may appear as two separate disorders, but at their core they are essentially the same disease. Alcoholism is simply addiction to alcohol, but carries the same traits as addiction. However, in 12-Step recovery, there appears to be a distinction. Alcoholics Anonymous has a focus on recovery from alcoholism, while other 12-Step fellowships such as Narcotics Anonymous focus on recovery from drugs.

The three components that cause alcoholism and addiction are the same. Those with alcoholism and addiction suffer from a spiritual malady, a physical allergy, and a mental obsession. These three components cause one to engage in addictive behavior and lose manageability over their lives, the only difference is the substance they use. In a 2011 article for The Fix entitled Alcoholism vs. Addiction, Kristen McGuiness cited Dr. John Sharp, an addiction-focused psychiatrist who specializes in the integration of mood disorders and addictions, who explains, “Alcoholism is an addiction—it’s just one type of addiction. When you break out the specific things that someone who is suffering from alcoholism contends with—impaired control, preoccupation with a drug, using despite adverse consequences, distortions in thinking, most notably along the lines of denial—they are no different from any other type of addict.”

There are differences in the ways that certain drugs affect the mind and body, and each substance presents different challenges to recovery. Addict Science explains that all addictive drugs share the “same essential experience” of spiking dopamine levels and effect on the brain’s reward system, and the differences are less important than the similarities: “This may seem counter-intuitive. After all, heroin is a depressant. Heroin addicts “nod out.” Methamphetamine, on the other hand, is a stimulant keeping users awake and hyper. So how can they be the same? The answer, scientists say, is that the high is the same, while the side effects of different drugs differ depending on the ways the drug works in the brain, particularly the way it affects parts of the brain not involved in the dopamine system.” Most people entering into treatment struggle with both alcohol and drugs because addiction as a disease is not substance-specific. Recovery focuses on the underlying mental, physical, and spiritual elements of addiction and alcoholism, allowing us to live happy, joyous, and free lives in sobriety.

Your life can become one of serenity and peace of mind. You can begin the rewarding journey of recovery by making the decision to seek help now. Resilient House, located in beautiful Shreveport, Louisiana, believes in addressing all aspects of addiction, including the mind, body, and spirit, to help you develop all the tools necessary to achieve and maintain lasting sobriety. For information about treatment options, please call today: (833) 242-6431