Is Addiction a Disease? | Tikvah Lake Recovery

Is Addiction a Disease?

Addiction is most commonly viewed as an addiction, though many believe otherwise.

According to the American Medical Association and the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is a disease, like diabetes and heart disease. They believe that genetics account for half of the likelihood that someone will develop an addiction. Though they believe that environment, behavioral and biological factors play roles as well. Others differ and believe that addiction cannot be a disease because it is caused by the individual’s choice to use the drugs or alcohol.

What is the difference if addiction is viewed as a disease?

The most important outcome of how addiction is viewed, is how it is to be treated. If addiction is viewed as a disease, it should be treated like any other disease, which may require medication or some sort of treatment. Also if it is viewed as a chronic disease, then a person can never fully recover and will be a lifelong addict.


If addiction is not seen as a disease, then once a person is ready to make the decision to quit, with the proper tools and support, the addiction can be beat. Once a person overcomes addiction according to this perspective, then they are no longer addicts (though they should still refrain from further substance abuse.)

What is the correct answer?

Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous and other 12 step programs believe that addiction is a disease thereby reinforcing at the start of every meeting the repetition of “I am an addict”. They want to constantly remind each person that they are addicts and have to always be on the alert.


An example of the approach that believes that addiction is not a disease is Dr. Stanton Peele’s Life Process Program, which holds that a person can only beat addiction once they decide that they want to. This is accomplished through real life behavioral changes. While it states that a person has to ultimately decided on his or her own, rehabs and therapy can still provide the proper environments for these decisions.


12 step programs work for many who like to be constantly involved with being titled “addict” and participating in meetings even decades into sobriety. Others feel that this reinforces bad memories and bad thoughts that inhibit a person to make the active decision to change environment and behaviors.


Each person has to find his or her own answer that works. The disease model may work for some but not for others.

Overdoses are on the rise. It is so important to treat these addictions as early as possible before the addict reaches stages that can cause long term harm to the body.


The most effective therapy is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which helps to change the the person’s drug use expectations and behaviors and also helps to manage triggers and stress to prevent future drug use.


The most important key to beating any addiction is recognizing each individual's needs. Even though addiction has common underlying factors, they affect each person uniquely. Personalized treatment is the secret to addiction recovery. Smaller facilities naturally are able to take better care and keep better watch over each of the few patients.


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