According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the life expectancy of men is about five years less than women. Although physical disorders such as heart disease are the leading causes of death, experts report that severe mental illness can shorten a person’s life span by up to twenty years. Novembers Men’s Health Month seeks to raise awareness of physical problems like prostate cancer and mental health issues like addiction.
Consider joining other men who support one another at The Sanctuary Recovery Foundation. Contact us to learn how we can help you learn how to live a more meaningful and sober life.
Is Addiction A Disease?
Everyone understands that conditions such as prostate cancer and diabetes are serious medical conditions. However, it remains a widely held belief that substance abuse is a choice that results from a person having weak character. While prostate cancer carries no stigma, the same can not be said of addiction.
Fortunately, medical professionals’ view of addiction is based on scientific evidence, not myths that linger in the culture. Alcoholism was classified as a disease in 1956 by the American Medical Association. Thirty years later, addiction was included in the classification. The diagnosis of addiction as a behavior problem was redefined in 2011 by the American Society of Addiction Medicine as a chronic brain disorder.
How Does Addiction Affect the Brain?
Drugs and alcohol change how the brain functions, especially affecting how nerve cells process information. The specific areas of the brain harmed by substance abuse include:
- The brain’s reward system. Drugs and alcohol reduce this system, making it more difficult to feel pleasure from healthy activities. The addict grows to find pleasure exclusively from the abused substance.
- The stress system. Without the drugs or alcohol, the addict feels anxious and irritable. Eventually, there is a substance dependence to relieve these uncomfortable feelings.
- The thinking system. Addicts have diminished control over their impulses due to the chemical effect on the brain’s prefrontal cortex. This explains an addict’s shift toward compulsive behavior, including how the abused substance is sought.
How Does Addiction Affect Overall Health?
Besides the difficulties with relationships, finances, and employment, addiction can create severe physical health issues. Several of these directly affect an addict’s lifespan. Some of the common health problems created by substance abuse include:
- Heart disease.
- Lung disease.
- Autoimmune diseases.
- Dental problems, such as tooth decay, periodontal disease, dry mouth, and bruxism.
The Increased Risk Men Face
Men are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than women. Experts have suggested several reasons men are at higher risk for substance abuse. Some of the theories include:
- Males are typically introduced to drugs and alcohol at an earlier age.
- The culture’s view of masculinity leads men to cope with their feelings in an unhealthy way, such as substance abuse.
- Men are more inclined toward risk-taking activities.
Sanctuary Recovery Foundation
The Sanctuary Foundation provides a safe and clean residence for residents to regain confidence and pursue a life full of joy and healthy relationships. Contact us and learn more about how you can benefit from our powerful twelve-step programming.