Is Addiction A Disease? Guest Blog By Nicole Allen
Individuals who are suffering from addiction are often perceived as lacking willpower and moral failing. In times gone by, people suffering from addiction experienced prejudice and unfair judgment from society. Back then, individuals struggling with addiction were viewed as menaces to society. Years later, it was discovered through research that like any other ailment, addiction is also considered a disease. However, what exactly is “addiction”?
What is Addiction?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as a “chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the addicted individual.”
Although the person knows the consequences of their addiction, he or she may struggle to stop it. Hence, that person is considered an “addict” regardless of what kind of addiction he or she has.
While the definition talks about “drug addiction” there are other ways of having an addiction. There is alcohol addiction, smoking addiction, and even pornography addiction. Whatever kind of addiction a person has, one thing is certain: it can cause health and social problems for that individual.
How Addiction Is Considered A Disease
According to an article on Center on Addiction, addiction involves a combination of biological, behavioral, and environmental factors. Moreover, that feeling of pleasure and satisfaction is triggered by a chemical in our brains – the same released upon excessive use of addictive substances.
As a result, some people end up being dependent on these substances to make them “happy” regardless of their health risks. These substances also serve as rewards leading to this pleasurable feeling when taken. Then the activity is repeated even when they pose a negative effect on the body.
As a person continues to use a substance excessively, their social and personal lives can suffer as well. Even if they stop using such substances, they are still prone to relapse.
We are all predisposed to addiction, and it can be triggered by an increased use of substances or repetitive employment of certain behaviors. Genes also play an important role in addiction.
There are research studies showing that genetics may affect one’s risk of developing an addiction. There are genes that shape addictive personalities and these are also the ones that may be responsible for developing substance abuse and dependence.
We can therefore say that addiction is considered a disease. In some cases, a person may experience relapses before finally defeating his addiction. Chronic diseases such as diabetes require consistent treatment to eliminate symptoms. Otherwise, they can lead to serious complications. This also applies to treating addiction.
Treating Addiction as a Disease
Considering addiction as a disease will also affect the treatment approaches. Before, addiction was viewed as a criminal act because of the negative behaviors brought about by the addiction. These behaviors include stealing, lying, or inflicting harm on others. In addition, treatment methods in the past involved a different approach as compared to modern-day programs.
Contemporary methods of treatment such as detox and behavioral counseling are based on the concept that addiction is a disease. For some, the length of treatment is an issue. However, repeated and long-term care is necessary for the treatment of addiction. Like other types of diseases, it requires months and even years to fully recover from certain illnesses. Lifestyle diseases even require maintenance medication that needs to be taken every day, as in the case of diabetics and people with hypertension.
Sadly, a lot of people do not believe that addiction is a disease. Apparently, these people believe that being an addict is a “choice”. Many also believe that addiction cannot possibly be a disease because “there is no infectious agent, no pathological biological process, and no biologically degenerative condition,” according to an article by Psychology Today.
However, addicts should not be solely blamed for their condition. Although it is partly due to their choices, according to experts the succeeding consequences can be beyond control. Even if no bacteria, parasites, or any other biological pathogens are involved, addiction is still something that should be taken seriously and when necessary, dealt with using medications and treatments.
How to Prevent Addiction
If you are sick or have a disease, it is natural to take medications and consider adjusting your lifestyle to improve your condition. This should be your mindset when it comes to addiction. More so, it is unfair to think of you or other people struggling with addiction are“bad people” with nothing to offer. With that said, changing ways for the better should come from you so as to improve your health and your life in general.
Aside from that, addiction should not be viewed as a weakness, nor should you see yourself as a hopeless person. Because addiction is considered a disease, there will always be a cure for it, regardless of whatever therapy or medicine it involves.
Some people claim that there’s no need for treatment and medications to be free from addiction. Others believe only “willpower” is needed to recover from addiction. These are not entirely true.
As mentioned earlier, addiction can affect your mental health, including your ability to make sound judgments. That is why it is important to have the support of those around you to help you on your road to recovery. More importantly, a person who is struggling with addiction – which may include you – should focus and make an effort on overcoming that phase of life to emerge as a better person.
Guest Blog Post written by Nicole Allen