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Addiction: Substance Abuse Community
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10799887 tn?1417240069

ADDICTION a DISEASE???????

Hey,  I would like to have peoples views on addiction being a disease.  I have had this DRILLED into my head so much, I am beginning to believe that it is a self fulfilling prophecy.  I do not want to live in a world where I am forced to view myself as sick.  Is it possible that back in the day, when addiction was marked a disease that they didn't know what to call it?  How we were all just classified as sick people so there was an excuse for our behavior.  So really we are all walking around making a terrible excuse? I'm starting to this I am an alcoholic/addict is just an excuse.  We are sick people trying to be well.  If we keep telling ourselves that, then wouldn't it come to be?  I think EVERYONE can benefit from the 12 steps but this telling myself every day that I have a disease and am sick is for the birds in my eyes. These are the questions I am asking myself lately. I find it hard to believe that it is so cut and dry. What are your views/thoughts?
33 Responses
7163794 tn?1457370413
Hmmmm.....good question....
I do believe it is a legitimate disease we have. I'm not sure about the makeup's of our brains and how we are wired differently (which we ARE) but I do think of it as a dis.....ease that we have within ourselves.  I don't wake up every morning telling myself that I have a disease though. I am working an N/A 12 step program and I think we STOP the negative when we start making the right decisions.  I don't agree with using "I have a disease" as an excuse to continue making mistakes.....but I choose to not use today. I choose to continue doing the next right thing....I think as long as we are working a program we are recovering addicts.....who help each other to stay clean!  But I definately know some that use "disease" as a crutch or excuse to continue bad behavior but here's a thought.  I had cancer as a young teenager....technically I had a disease but it went into remission about 4 weeks after starting chemo...I technically had no more disease but I had to continue chemo treatments to ensure that my disease didn't come back......make sense????
Avatar universal
I think it is a dis ease, much like the affects of working at a nuclear power plant for too many years. Once exposed to enough radiation, or drugs, one's body start to adapt, that is the physical part, disorder. The body is no longer working on factory settings. Now, if a power plant worker avoids radiation exposure, then they can live a totally normal life. I met a man who worked on a super collider, he had to avoid radiation, even EMF, or he would fall into a stuper and couldn't get out. Once removed from the exposure, he would return to himself again. I think drugs are the same, the symptoms don't continue to grow, so long as the exposure stops.

Addiction is progressive, this is known fact. What may take 10 years to form an original addiction, could happen in a week with someone who has been physically dependent on a drug before. That to me, is the disease. Like my dad, he has polio. I could say he had polio, but some of the effects are still obvious and people ask why his leg is the way it is. He says Polio, he still has some of the symptoms, but it has stopped progressing. So, our brain is permenantly changed by drugs, meaning it can reach compulsive addiction levels much easier and faster than the original use of the same drugs had in the past.

I don't think anything is cut and dry, especially MI and addiction. I also don't feel the need to definitively give a name to everything. I call myself bipolar order, because I don't want to be diseased, and that is not even a real word or expression. I find that helps. Whatever you want to call it, as long as it keeps you from using drugs, that is as perfect a definition is one can give to this.
10996785 tn?1432816577
I watched a good movie in detox, "Pleasure Unwoven" all about the brain. Try it out. In a nutshell, when the experts could finally find the connection to the brain and could see tangible evidence that the brain function differently in a addict they called it a disorder. (Right on Weaver) Now it is still a highly debatable topic. Once again. Use it or not. That's your choice as well.
495284 tn?1333897642
COMMUNITY LEADER
Disease or not, all i know is just for today i am an addict in recovery~
4522800 tn?1470329434
Good one!
That "Pleasure Unwoven" is a great one to see. I seen it over 2 yrs ago and he made one more. There are tons of scientific research out here these days.
I have tons of info and have talked to MANY different types of DRS about this.
I have even put just a few pieces of info in my journal a long time ago.

Now days the DRS/Scientist consider addiction a brain disease; a condition caused by persistent changes to brain structures and function. Using drugs repeatedly over time changes brain structure and function in fundamental and long lasting ways that can persist long after the individual stops using them. After a certain amount of a drug is consumed and that amount is different for everyone, it is as if a switch in the brain is flipped from normal to addict.  Very few can return to use after this.
But, as we know, not everyone who uses drugs becomes addicted. Estimates are that 50 to 70 percent of these difference in susceptibility to addiction are Genetic..Still the genes are not doom one to become an addict.
WHAT UNDERSTANDING ADDICTION MEANS.
Many people think drug addiction is a failure of will. Research contradicts this. However, this does not mean the addict is a hapless victim, nor does it absolve the addict of responsibility for his or hers Behavior. But it does explain why a addict cannot stop using by sheer force of will alone.

I also have read lots about the Dopamine which they call the D2 cell that we get from our family some where down the line. My understanding is that we are born with low dopamine which make it easy for us to become addict more then some other. They are now coming up with ideas to swap a person to see if they have this gene before they medicate.

The only reason why I do believe some of this (and this is just me) is because I got clean at 56 and now I am 58. I have used since I was 14 this or that. In my first yr of getting clean I could feel real feeling and some emotions I never felt. Now at almost 2 and a half yrs I went through another real emotional Real Strange brain thing that I can not even explain. I was told many moons ago by a Brain Dr that it would take me two yrs for all my wiring to balance back. I was told that at my two yr that was what I was experiencing and now things are getting way better. NOW NOT ALL OF US ARE THE SAME!!!  I get lots of PMS from others asking after a yr if I felt this too and yes I did.
I go to many meetings and it seems to me that they do not talk about any of this in a Scientific way.  This is OK for me as alot know, but they just know that the 12 steps and having a sponsor is what saves them "one day at a time"
Bless U and I hope this helped a bit. There are TONS of info out here.
Vickie
Avatar universal
I honestly never have thought it was.  I definitely think it is something psychological and some people are more predisposed than others. Maybe it is Bc I am not one that is. I have never considered myself addicted. I didn't abuse it. But I was dependent physically and that is why I tapered.  So I'm probably not the best source of opinion.
Avatar universal
I think addiction is a symptom that results from a disease of body, mind and/or spirit. In most cases it is secondary to the underlying problem. It starts out as the cure, but can quickly become the problem. Your brain switches just like Vic said above, and then there is no turning back. It is definitely a compulsion, but a disease? Not sure about that. However,  it is an epidemic.
Avatar universal
Recently I was reading about adult ADD and addiction to opiates. Very interesting to learn more about the complex brain. What do you guys think?
Avatar universal
Addiction is classified as a disease. It fits the definition because it's progressive and can end in death if untreated. As far as being sick, well, a person IS sick when in the throes of addiction. But, like other diseases, if treated it can go into remission.  

We've known for a long time now that addiction is not a moral failing but a chemical disease. Treating addiction requires much more than abstinence and willpower...but that's a whole other subject...

Once in treatment and sober, I don't consider myself as being sick at all. You shouldn't either.  And...it really shouldn't be drilled into your head everyday. That's not necessary...unless you're still using.    All the best!
7163794 tn?1457370413
I just wanted to rewrite this b/c I think this is a point that's overlooked ALOT....Vicki595:  Treating addiction requires much more than abstinence and willpower!!!!!!

Treating addiction requires much more than abstinence and willpower!  I love this statement!
Avatar universal
certainly the brain goes through changes but fact is:

ethanol (present in ALL alcoholic beverage) is an addictive SUBSTANCE.  EVERYONE has the potential of becoming addicted when exposing themselves to an addictive substance.

ALL addiction is progressive and ALL addictions can end in death

Alcohol is a drug, an addictive drug like the others.  One doesn't say a person addicted to cigarettes has a disease, nor do I hear that other drug addicts have a disease - rather it's called addiction

My Mother was an alcoholic until the day She died.   My Son was an alcoholic AND a drug addict until the day He died of an accidental drug overdose (acute phentanyl  intoxication).  They were both addicted to their drug of choice.

I mean NO disrespect to anyone.  Opinions differ on this topic and I'm only stating my own opinion.  I  'earned',   'learned'  my opinion the hard way.

Regards,
Tink
Avatar universal
P.S.
ethanol (alcohol) is a neurotoxic psychoactive DRUG

as are:  sedatives, hypnotics, and narcotics - all are addictive drugs
Avatar universal
Addiction as a disease is not really debatable. It's a disease that's well documented. It has a medical diagnosis code and is described in detail in the DSM V ( Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of mental illnesses ).  Not everyone becomes addicted to an intoxicating substance when exposed...dependence is separate from addiction.  We all have our opinions and that's fine but there's no denying the facts.
Avatar universal
EVERY cucumber (person) left in the brine (alcohol) long enough WILL become a pickle.  Key here is the amount of alcohol AND / OR the length of time one exposes oneself to an (any) addictive substance.  How many cigarettes does it take for one to become addicted to smoking?  No one knows the exact answer to exactly how many - surely the number differs from one person to another - but it's agreed that at some point addiction occurs.....and as with all addictions, there are changes in the brain - but we don't call it a "disease" when one is addicted to other substances than alcohol.

Drugs are addicting; alcohol (ethanol) is a drug.  12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine, 1.5 oz of 80 proof liquor all contain the same amount of ethanol: an addictive substance.  

In my thinking, alcoholism may well be a disease, but if so, well then, addiction to cigarettes, meth, heroin, prescription  drugs, etc., etc. would also be a disease, all are addictive substances.

We do all have opinions (and I agree that's fine even though we may differ).  I've done a lot of reading myself and I have come to realize for almost every opinion (fact) there is an opposing opinion (fact).  So, we draw conclusions from what we learn.  Interacting with my Mother (alcoholic) and my Son (meth addict) and learning all I could about Their addictions played a huge role in my opinions.  I may not be completely correct in my opinion but neither am I completely wrong.  This subject will continue to be debated

Regards
1796826 tn?1578878379
Vicki, I'd debate whether the DSM is the be all and end all for defining disease. Every new edition comes with a raging debate about what should and shouldn't be included.

I personally think the answer to the question originally asked is: Don't get hung up on semantics. Addiction fits nicely into the disease model, so it's logical to call it one.

If you're not using and haven't in some time, like Vicki said, there's no need to wake up feeling like you're sick or diseased.

If you've ever had chicken pox, you still have that virus in your body. Do you wake up every day lamenting the fact that you technically have chicken pox? Of course not. Same thing applies as far as I'm concerned.
1742220 tn?1331360327
I agree with some of what you said, lindy, i think that for a long time it was difficult for me to believe in addiction as a disease.  I have seen 'Pleasure Unwoven" and while I found it riveting it did not convince me.  In fact, the 'evidence' portraying addiction as a medical disease proved inconclusive imo.  However, "Pleasure" went a gigantic distance in aiding me in my recovery.  A substantial part of my relapse history, which is extensive (!!!), was precisely due to the fact that I was in denial about the gravity and nature of my addiction.  When I saw how the chemicals in the brain behaved, it allowed me to treat my addiction as more than just a personal failure or moral weakness.  While it may seem that one would use the disease model as an 'excuse' for addiction, in my case and I would posit in many others, it actually ameliorated my ability to get and stay clean with a more profound and effective understanding.  just my .02
Avatar universal
Hi  well this is debated is like what came first the chicken or the egg  I base my opinion on hard science and doctors all agree this is a disease  I used a substance abuse counselor for the better part of 4yrs of aftercare  he had a masters degree in the field and also agreed it was a disease  I have watched specials on the brain and addiction and it gave conclusive evidence we a are wired differently the ''normies'' the mri shows that the pleasure centers not only lit up  the way normies din but also had other parts of the brain that lit up after going to N/A and lissining to people with 10+ years clean that are still dealing with the compulsions the obsessions  the resentments even after 10+ years clean this will not go away  if your honest with yourself you will realize that once you stop the drugs your still left with the mental part of this disease the addict is still alive and well in your head we still think the same  but it is ok you can arrest the disease and the recovery is possible... I have been on this forum since 09 and those that treat the disease stay clean those that dont come back on over and over wounding why there in the same boat again  this dose not have to be a death sentence you can recover but it is up to you to treat it   your disease will tell you you dont need aftercare it will tell you you will grow out of it it will eventually tell you one wont hurt then it is game on again  for many of us it is the first time in years that we are trying to deal with life on lifes terms clean and it is all but impossible without a program of recovery all I know is programs like n/a work and will power does not it is your disease that makes you ask this question in the first place now you can white knuckle it or find recovery  my best friend has 29 trs clean and goes to 4 meeting a week it is very treatable but it is up to you to surrender to the fact your going to have to treat it  if N/a works for a old dope fiend like me it will work for any one please dont be confused this disease will take you places you never thought you would go and it is progressive and only gets worst with time  the reason im so pashanet about this is I lived in active addiction for 35years and if I can help someone that is only in the begining stages avoid that it makes my day if someone showed me the way out I may not have wasted over 1/2 my life getting high   think long and hard about this post and for many your disease is already lying to you saying well it is not me  I feel for you...you never have to use again...........................Gnarly..................................
495284 tn?1333897642
COMMUNITY LEADER
This is just MY opinion here and how i have to live MY recovery.  I have a hard time with the word "disease" on addiction.  It doesnt matter to me as the bottom line for me is i am an addict in recovery.  Labeling it a disease doesnt change that.  What it does allow for me is a road to excuses  This is how my brain is wired.  My addiction isnt lying to me tonight and hopefully it doesnt tomorrow.   For those of us who dont wrap ourselves around the word disease we arent at any greater risk for relapse than the ones who do call it a disease.  I work my recovery the moment my feet hit the ground in the morning.  As i said in the beginning, this is only MY opinion,
Avatar universal
Whether it is actually disease or addiction is kinda', sorta' a moot point - with much room for opinion/debate

The important thing is, and the only thing that really matters, is where, why, how, each and every individual draws personal strength to enable recovery (i.e., dominosarah, gnarly_1, meegWpay, etc, etc.)  

My Mother called it a "disease", my Son called it an "addiction" - They Both died from overdose/overuse of Their "drug of choice"

I am thankful and deeply moved by all who find Their path(s) to recovery
Avatar universal
I had the same dilemma, however I always recognized my addictive personality before I even got hooked into pills in my 30s. I have alcoholics on both sides of my family which likely 90% of addicts have addiction in their immediate family. It's a disease but we are not sick and hopeless, it's a disease we have the power to control when we surrender and admit we cannot manage our lives like some recreational users do. Being clean is a great life once you clear that first hurdle, I mean can you really imagine going through the rest of your life trying to feed your addiction, I would rather die now than be a slave forever.  Read the 12 steps and the CBT translations of them to gain more insight. We might have a disease however it's nothing to be ashamed of, I couldn't believe the kind of extremely successful people I met in treatment, I was there with a world class comedian, two actors, a doctor, a international lawyer, a university professor, a retired CEO of a major pharma, a multi-millionaire who is in the music industry, I was absolutely floored how so many people you think have everything straightened out still suffer from addiction. I am not some rich person either who went to Beverly Hills for treatment, just a normal dude who needed help.
480448 tn?1426952138
I definitely think that addicts are "wired" differently, without a doubt.  There are good and bad consequences with the labeling of addiction as a disease.

The bad...addicts don't need much to come up with an excuse to use, or to keep using.  If an addict runs with the "disease" concept, they can easily talk themselves into using based on the fact that they "have a disease and cannot help it."  That's simply NOT true.  While addicts may be cut from a different cloth, they are still 100% responsible for their choices and decisions along the way.  Just like someone with depression or anxiety.  Can they HELP that they are inflicted with that disorder?  Of course not.  But, does it give them the right to treat their loved ones horribly, being angry, miserable, and lashing out (common)?  Of course not!  An addict cannot help that they're an addict but they CAN help how they choose to address that.

As for the good...one of the best aspects of addiction being officially labeled as a disease, recognized with diagnostic codes, is that there is a LOT more help out there for people.  It also means that insurance is covering a lot of treatment modalities it didn't before.  The world of addiction treatment has GREATLY improved over the last decade.  It still has loads of room for improvement, but it's a far cry from what it was.  Before, an addict's options were few, with really one of the only treatment options being inpatient rehab.  Now, a person can go about their recovery in a multitude of different ways.

This is always a heavily debated topic, with very valid points on both sides.  I would tell people not to get hung up so much on the label, but more on how to move forward and formulate a recovery plan.  
Avatar universal
I think that while many people are predisposed towards addiction if exposed to addictive substances its a very complex subject (the rat park experiment is very interesting if anyone has read the study).

Things like our environment, our relationships with others and the basic choices we make can determine whether someone predisposed to addiction actually engages in active addiction (many don't). At the end of the day disease or not we all have choices and sometimes maybe the disease angle gives us rationalization over our own bad choices and mistakes.

Obviously it would help if those who are predisposed to addiction weren't exposed to addictive substances but in the real world that's not really possible so we all have to try to make the wisest choices we can and not let a natural predisposition to destructive behaviour ruin the one life we own.
Avatar universal
t is a disease of the brain.People become reliant on the drug and cant stop using which in extreme cases until death.What is "rock bottom to a drug attic?"......."DEATH".Drugs stimulate nuerotransmitters deep down n the brain.Certain drugs trigger certian nuerons/transmitters.EX:amphetamines stimuate a nuerotransmitter called dopamine.Its what causes us to feel good and like thngs.AKA the pleasure chemical of the brain.So much that the brain cant pass it through our nuerons causng an overload which our brain actually opens up to make room for.Now when the euphoria passes, the surge of dopamne slowly wears down toits natural load.Causing the room for the overload to become empty which therefor gives us depression do to the lack of pleasure we were used to feeling while high. I can go on for days about indivdual drugs and their effects on the brain but to really trip your mind is this.........Your body already has and experiences all drugs have to offer naturally in our brain.We simply stimulate whats already exssting within our brain.You couldnt feel t otherwise.The recepters and nuerotransmitters exsst from birth and when stimulated by natural substances(all drugs derve from some plant)they stimulate into a "high".....Hope you understood what I am gettng at.Gotta go
Avatar universal
Someone who has an addiction and why some people refer to the addiction as a "DISEASE" is because the drug that we become addicted to can be habit forming and can affect you and the people around you as well. I am an addict and i take full rsponsibility for my actions. When I was in my addiction I would have withdrawls and before I used I would physically get sick until that first hit or smoke. Someone mentioned that we just stimulate a certain part of our brain with drugs and when the high is over depression sets in and they are so right. When we choose to use a drug that we already know is going to change our attitude because it makes us happier or productive, I believe we are just telling ourselves a lie,without the drug im depressed or cant get motivated. I know that being sober and living a clean life has its ups and downs but living a drug life can only cause you grief. Calling your addictiion a disease or not does not matter Its overcoming that addiction that really matters.
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495284 tn?1333897642
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