Primary Disease

A disease broadly refers to any condition that disrupts the normal functioning of an organism, leading to a harmful deviation from its usual state. This disruption can impact various biological structures, including cells, tissues and organs, diminishing their ability to perform effectively. Diseases are often identified through distinct symptoms and signs, ranging from fever and cough to congestion and bodily discomfort.

The term “disease” encompasses various synonymous expressions such as illness, sickness, malady, ailment and infection, among others. This umbrella term encompasses a wide array of specific disease types, each with its unique characteristics and effects on the body.

When speaking about addiction as a primary disease, it means that it is a standalone condition that requires treatment and is not simply a symptom of another underlying issue. Addiction has been recognised as a medical condition since the early 1950s, this recognition has helped shift the perception of addiction from a moral failing to a medical issue that requires proper care and attention.

In addiction treatment, understanding the distinctions between various types of addictions is crucial for developing effective treatment strategies. Similar to the categorisation of diseases into acute and chronic, addictions can also be segmented based on their nature and duration.

Acute and Chronic Addictions mirror the concepts of acute and chronic diseases.

An acute addiction might emerge rapidly, often triggered by a specific event or exposure to a substance and could potentially be resolved relatively quickly with immediate intervention. For instance, an individual might experience a short-lived but intense period of substance misuse following a traumatic event but manage to overcome this phase with prompt support and treatment.

Conversely, chronic addictions develop over a longer period, possibly months or years and are characterised by persistent and often escalating substance use despite the knowledge of harmful consequences. These addictions are akin to chronic diseases in their longevity and in the complex, comprehensive plan required for their management. Treatment for chronic addictions typically involves a comprehensive plan that may include medication, counselling, lifestyle adjustments and ongoing support to manage and mitigate the addiction’s impact.

Primary and Secondary Addictions further refine the classification within addiction treatment.

A primary addiction arises independently without being a consequence of another disorder, much like a primary disease. For instance, a person might develop an addiction to alcohol or drugs without any preceding condition. On the other hand, a secondary addiction occurs as a complication or result of an existing issue, which could be another addiction or a mental health disorder. An example would be an individual turning to substance use as a coping mechanism for depression or anxiety, leading to a secondary addiction.

Understanding these distinctions is vital for tailoring addiction treatment to the individual’s needs, ensuring a more targeted and effective approach to recovery. Just as with diseases, recognising whether an addiction is acute or chronic and whether it is primary or secondary, enables healthcare providers to design a treatment plan that addresses the specific dynamics and challenges of each person’s situation.

Addiction, also known as a chronic brain disease affecting areas responsible for reward, motivation, memory and related functions. It manifests as an uncontrollable craving for drugs, continuous seeking and using substances despite severe negative consequences and leads to lasting changes in the brain’s structure and chemistry. Characteristics of this disorder include a failure to abstain consistently, behavioural control impairments, intense cravings, a lack of awareness of significant personal and relational issues and abnormal emotional responses.

By referring to addiction as a primary disease, it helps to remove blame or judgement from the individual struggling with it. It acknowledges that addiction is not a result of weak willpower or personal shortcomings but rather a complex and chronic illness that affects the brain and behavior.

What is Primary Disease? - Get Addiction Guide

A primary disease can be described as the make-up of a disease and that it is not just a symptom of another sickness. Get help from qualified counsellors.

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    Founded in 2008, WeDoRecover has evolved from an advisory service for addiction treatment into a comprehensive provider of care, following its 2019 merger with Changes Addiction Rehab in Johannesburg. Specialising in connecting patients to top-tier addiction treatment centers in the UK, South Africa and Thailand, WeDoRecover supports individuals globally, including those from the United Arab Emirates and Europe. Accepting both South African medical aid and international health insurance our organisation facilitates access to high-quality treatment for substance and alcohol use disorders, offering individualised care that addresses the physical, mental and social needs of patients.

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    Rehab care is a good option if you are at risk of experiencing strong withdrawal symptoms when you try stop a substance. This option would also be recommended if you have experienced recurrent relapses or if you have tried a less-intensive treatment without success.


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    Are you having persistent feelings of being swamped, sad or have sudden surges of anger or intense emotional outbursts? These are warning signs of unresolved trauma mental health. A simple assesment by a mental health expert could provide valuable insights into your recovery.

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