COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Addiction to any illicit substance or drug is a disease, and it's one doctors say can take a lifetime to cure and can often be deadly.
"It's got as much to do with chemical changes in your brain as any other disease like cancer, or heart disease or any other illness that you can think of," explains Dr. Kaizah Shroff with Rivertown Psychiatry.
According to Dr. Shroff, once an addict stops using and begins treatment they are considered in remission, a process that can be a daily struggle.
"This disease hijacks our brain and it hijacks the very survival center that keeps us alive and well," added Jeffrey Jenkins with Talbott Recovery Columbus. "And unfortunately, by hijacking it, it basically sentences alcoholics and addicts to death."
Now a case manager with Talbot Recovery, Jenkins said he too struggles with addiction and each day is a constant reminder of the fight against sobriety.
"The most important thing that I do every day, besides getting up and brushing my teeth, is saying a prayer to help keep me sober personally," said Jenkins.
For many, part of that struggle includes relapse. According to Dr. Shroff, addiction happens in cycles that are usually triggered by a stressor or boredom and regardless of the cause, the habit does die hard.
"The average number of times people need to get complete treatment or impatient or outpatient treatment before they stop using drugs is about seven," Dr. Shroff shares. "So, you need to stop and start seven times on average before you stop for good."
In talking with the men, shame was thrown up against addiction, forcing many to keep silent about their struggles.
"There's a lot of shame in this disease and shame kills more alcoholics and addicts than anything else," Jenkins said.
Shame stamps an ugly stigma on the disease Dr. Shroff and Jenkins hope to erase through education.
Dr. Shroff tells me there is a genetic difference in the brains of addictive and non-addictive people. If you're wondering if you have an addiction problem, he suggests asking yourself these four questions:
Do you feel like you should cut back on your usage?
Have people annoyed your by criticizing your usage?
Have your ever felt bad or guilty for using?
Finally, do you have to have it first thing in the morning?
If you need help answering these questions, Talbott Recovery Columbus does addiction assessments free of charge. For more on how to contact the center visit their website at this link.