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Why is Addiction a Disease?

Addicted man in the mirror

Why is Addiction a Disease?

September 23, 2016

Addiction was for the longest time seen as a moral choice. People looked down upon those who were “addicts” as if they were both selfish and self-destructive. There was a moral condemnation for those suffering from addiction. But when it became apparent that addiction is a disease (a circumstance that manipulates the person rather than being controlled by the person) the public began to understand the nature of it all. People who were addicted were given more in depth levels of assistance with the illness. However, one has to ask, why is it considered an illness in the first place? What makes Addiction a disease?
The National Institute of Drug Abuse defines addiction as:

“… a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain—they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long-lasting, and can lead to the harmful behaviors seen in people who abuse drugs.”
Although the first exposure to a particular drug is usually voluntary, continued use is usually involuntary. Addiction ends up reworking the brain’s needs to become dependent on a substance, with little-to-no intentional control on the person. The person becomes an addict because the brain becomes dependent on the drug in order to  properly function. It is not merely something that we can switch on and off. Also like other diseases, addiction can be fatal if left untreated. That not only goes for continued usage, but also for withdrawal as well. Withdrawals should always be conducted with both medical consultation and help from a friend. One’s mind and body grows sick by the lack of the substance, and therefore needs proper control and assistance in order to get through the withdrawal symptoms.
Unlike other diseases, Addiction is an illness that can be successfully treated. It requires care, discipline, and occasionally strict medication. Unfortunately the addiction cannot always be 100% ridden out of a person; what this means is that a person might always have the capability of loosing control if they ever touch the substance again. They will always have the biological potential to become an addict. However, that doesn't mean that it will always control them. But they can be treated to move on and no longer desire that substance and have a free life again. Recovery is achieved not when someone doesn’t take a drink, but it is achieved when someone no longer desires to have a drink in the first place.

Please see here for more information on our addiction recovery services.

Please see here to learn more about those who have successfully recovered from addiction with Recovery Care Partner.