A Disease of Mind, Body, and Spirit Addiction is a primary disease, which means it is not the result of some other problem. For example, addiction is not caused by a bad marriage or other difficulty in life. We also know addiction is: Progressive–if unaddressed, it will get worse Chronic–there is no cure, but it can be managed Potentially fatal A Brain Disease Research has shown that addiction is not a matter of individual strength, moral character or willpower. Instead, it's a matter of how the brain becomes wired. Long-term use of alcohol and other drugs actually changes the brain. Substance use increases the release of a powerful chemical called dopamine. Over time, if dopamine is routinely in abundance, the brain attempts to balance things out by producing less dopamine. At that point, the brain relies on substances to trigger the release of dopamine. And that is when individuals start to use alcohol and other drugs just to feel normal. Developing Dependence This activity takes place in an area of the brain known as the "reward center," the same place that regulates and reinforces natural rewards vital to existence, such as food and sex. That is why the addicted brain pursues alcohol and other drugs as if these substances are needed for mere survival And it's why people with addiction place that pursuit irrationally above almost any other priority. A variety of social, psychological, genetic and other factors make some people more vulnerable than others to developing addiction. No one chooses to develop the disease. Two people may start out using alcohol or other drugs similarly, with one person progressing to addiction while the other person does not. Individuals who develop addiction are no longer able use alcohol and drugs like other people do. Their brain chemistry has changed in a way that can be brought back into balance through rehab, but that balance will always remain vulnerable to resumed use.