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Is Addiction Really A Disease?

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Joined: May 6, 2014

Posted: May 20, 2014, 12:37 PM
I consider myself highly educated and informed about addicts, addiction and co-dependency. I am a family member of an addict and I have had a front line view of the horror. However, I am not buying into the notion society and the medical field pushes that it is a DISEASE. I will agree that it is a SICKNESS. They are two very different things.

Wondering if there are others who feel this way.

I am really tired of addicts using the "disease" excuse for their "problem". I am of the opinion that most addicts (while using) want to blame it on someone or something else. They act as if addiction plucked them out of a group of healthy people and now has it's death grip on them. They seemingly take little or no responsibility for their own "situation" and choices.

DISEASE - (definition) A pathological condition of a part, organ, or system of an organism resulting from various causes, such as infection, genetic defect, or environmental stress, and characterized by an identifiable group of signs or symptoms.

Most professionals claim that the latter part of the definition (characterized by an identifiable group or signs or symptoms) serves as their reasoning for classifying addiction as a disease. While I agree that addicts (including alcoholics) do show identifiable signs or symptoms and can be grouped with others of the same..... I do not think that this fact alone constitutes the decision to include addiction in the disease category.

Cancer and Diabetes are diseases. These afflictions (among many others) aren't CHOSEN by the afflicted. The afflicted don't continue to CHOOSE to have these deadly diseases. The afflicted usually choose a treatment path to put these type of afflictions in remission and choose to eradicate every bit of their diseases from their body if they can. They don't continue to reach out to Cancer and Diabetes and invite them in for a good time. Hey cancer... LET's PARTY!!!!!! I've never heard a cancer patient say.. "It be calling me" or "I just need one more hit" or "I only use a little bit" or "I can stop anytime I want" or "I'm depressed and can't face reality" or "I'll go into rehab tomorrow" or "I just wanted to reward myself with a little drugs since I've been sober for a few days"..... etc.

That being said, I get that once addicts are to the point where they feel as though they are no longer in control and their lives became unmanageable and all the Psychosis that goes into being mentally, physically or emotionally controlled by their drug of choice... it is STILL ULTIMATELY..... A CHOICE!!!!! Why do we forget that the "now" addict once made the choice to try pain pills, or cocaine, or meth, or heroine, or whatever drug interested them for whatever reasons. They made a conscious decision to ... take that first hit.. or drink... or double up on the pain killers they where prescribed because they discovered how good it feels! Or they have to "HIDE" from some harsh reality in their lives because they just can't FACE it sober like the rest of us tackle every day without a crutch. Addicts always have the CHOICE to STOP!!!! No matter what rung of the addiction ladder they are on. Most addicts choose to continue the sick behavior because they are GETTING SOMETHING OUT OF IT!!!! Some sort of REWARD that they are willing to risk EVERYTHING for. They choose to allow themselves to be vulnerable to the affects of drugs no matter the consequences to their mind, body and spirit. Let alone to the detriment of their relationships with loved ones, family and friends. That isn't a disease. That is a sickness. That is a CHOICE they made and continue to make EVERY SINGLE time they use.

I'm sick of addicts saying..."Do you think I want to be this way?" Because the real answer here is.... YES! YOU DO WANT TO BE THIS WAY... IF YOU DIDN'T..... YOU WOULD SEEK HELP TO BE NOT.... THIS WAY.

The really sad part... and true victims of addiction are the addict's loved ones. We are the ones... like with cancer patients... that have no control over what you are doing to yourselves. All we can do is sit by and watch and hope that the addict will get and stay clean. It is so painful and devastating for those of us that feel hopeless to your sickness. Only the addict can save themselves. CHOOSE a different path. Still a CHOICE!

Using drugs of any kind and becoming physically, mentally, or emotionally addicted to a drug is a CHOICE!!! No one forced it upon them. Many go to unspeakable lengths to continue their use... is that the disease part they speak of? Wrong again. They choose to go to those unspeakable and horrible lengths... no one is forcing them.

There isn't a person I know who has cancer or diabetes (or any other disease) that CHOSE to get it! So tell me again how this SICKNESS IS A DISEASE?

I will honestly entertain some logical educated responses on this topic.

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Joined: May 6, 2014

Posted: July 1, 2014, 3:20 PM
I see many people have read this post and no one has replied. I would be interested to know if anyone out there agrees with this post. If you do, I would really like to know. Please just reply with "agreed". I'm sort of taking a poll.


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Posted: July 3, 2014, 9:06 AM
I think that some people have a predisposition to addiction, especially if there is mental illness. The book Codependent No More by Melody Beattie has been extremely helpful to me. Loving an addict is a terrible and painful journey. I know. My daughter has been an addict for over 10 years. I had tried EVERYTHING possible to help her and I finally came to realize that I had to detach for my own health and sanity. The book helped me understand the pain and suffering that I was going through and helped me progress through the stages of loss which are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. I've arrived at the stage of Acceptance last month and although I have my sad moments at times, I'm starting to feel a little better every day and that is a blessing. My heart still aches, but I'm not in AGONY as I was for so many years.

An addict will never stop using drugs because you want them to stop using drugs. Either they want it for themselves or it doesn't happen. You can do everything right and offer everything that is good and right to help them recover but if they don't want it, there is nothing that you can do but to make peace with yourself. The only other choice is to spiral down with them while watching, waiting, and hoping for them to change. I finally realized that unless my daughter is recovering from her addiction, she is getting worse every day and taking me down with her.

Here is a quote from an article that I read in Time Magazine. Although the article was not about drugs or addiction, for me it sums up the nightmare of loving an addict...

"Life's most perplexing riddles have no comforting resolutions".

This post has been edited by Sarah9 on July 4, 2014, 5:26 AM

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Posted: July 6, 2014, 5:53 PM
I agree with you, but at some point the sickness becomes so great, that they cant find a way out because of the mental illness/ my son is only sober and clean in jail or prison, I think it is a predisposition but at a certain point willpower plays into it. the day a few years ago I picked up my son from rehab he started teling me about relapses being normal, I knew then that he would use immediately, he had an excuse, and it was bonafide because his counselor told him to expect it. whatever they are doing at rehabs it isn't working for most of them. ya I had the same position you have a couple of years ago (still do) and got blasted for it lol

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Posted: July 18, 2014, 4:15 PM
I believe it to be a disease because in or out of recovery, the addicted mind is still at work ... still active ... the traits of the addictive disease are still present. Plus, it's a disease that requires daily maintenance to arrest and continue recovery. In other words, if it were just behavioral problem, a choice, once the addict was clean the problem would be over. They would no longer physically need the drug and could go on about their lives in a healthy manner. But unfortunately, that's not the way it works.
Thank you for this topic!

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Joined: July 27, 2014

Posted: August 14, 2014, 10:22 AM
I suppose if one is the cause of the self inflicted 'sickness' disease, will play part only when organ's show signs of deteroration.

Your not factoring in examples of personalities namely persons with addictive tendencies. This may purely be down to genes or a head injury for example. Ultimately, its down to the brain and how well mentally health of the person and how the persons view their own lifestyle choices.

I do however agree that it is free-choice specially the very first time of using. Become addicted your life will change dramaticly!!!. Its about acceptance of addiction, and hopefully successful recovery.

I'm day 18 into methadone detox FREE AT LAST!!

This post has been edited by suspectdj on August 14, 2014, 10:32 AM


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Posted: October 7, 2014, 4:04 PM
Disease, allergy, illness -as a metaphor, Okay, I can go along with that. But honestly addiction (and I've been in recover for 38 years) is a behavioral disorder. It presents more like an OCD than a disease. I'm not medical but can't you see a disease in a microscope? You can see addicts look different in MRI scans but then how does one separate excessive drug/alcohol use vs an addict. Someone with excessive use is told, "Stop now or your liver will explode and you'll die." That's all they need to hear. They quit. Tell the same thing to an alcoholic, you'll get the same reply but maybe a very different result.

I don't mean to sound all conspiracy-theory here but I think the AMA used the term "disease" to create a salable franchise on treating addiction (alcohol, etc).

It doesn't bother me that people talk about their "disease" anymore than hearing people talk about what a Taurus they are. I don't have to believe in Horoscope to follow along with their story.

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Posted: October 20, 2014, 3:47 PM
I have thought about this also as several of my sons friends just want him to grow up and stop using. I think there is an addiction spectrum. My son seems to have a definite behavioral aspect/history of ADHD -anxiety-depression. " I was working two jobs so I used meth to help me stay alert enough to do that." I said that I would have just let one go-he said he was going to let one go in a month or two and then would have stopped using meth. Oh but he had already had a dirty UA and probation violation. The lies come so easy that truth seems so difficult.

I do think as a nurse that insurance companies need that designation to cover multiple rehabs/meds.

I guess it really does not matter disease or choice -more like pregnancy -either you use/abuse drugs or you don't.

Posted: October 23, 2014, 3:03 AM
Are any of you medical professionals with the ability to treat and diagnose? Do you have a medical degree from an accredited institution? Are you board certified? If not, then your thoughts and opinions are just that, thoughts and opinions. Not fact. It is also worth pointing out that your opinions and beliefs are going against the majority of the medical field. Seeing as how you are not a an expert in this field, it is incredibly ignorant of you, or maybe arrogant of you, do disagree with the experts for no apparent reason. Or if you do have a reason you have not stated it. Since medicine is based on science I would expect your reason to be as well rather then just hearsay. Do you really think that defining a disease as "something that can be seen in a microscope" is that simple? Get over your self.

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Posted: December 20, 2014, 12:50 AM
I have reasons to doubt and question the medical field based on my own personal experience with the addict that I live with. Just because I am not a medical professional doesn't mean that I and others in this thread haven't posed valid hypothesis on this label. Many of us have had similar experiences with addicts. I have personally done a lot of research on the matter and I feel that some addicts use the "disease" label as a cop out for their own irresponsibility and demise. I understand that addiction makes changes in the brain. I am simply tired of the excuse. I think that the fact that you can't see it under a microscope was a valid argument for this topic. Thank you all for your input. I haven't checked this thread for some time and I'm happy to see some debate on this subject. Please keep the comments flowing.

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Posted: December 20, 2014, 1:09 AM
Apparently you must be a medical professional. I don't think Joes statements where arrogant or stem from ignorance. I would have liked to have seen your side of this posted rather than harping on others opinions. We are all entitled to our opinions. Opinions is what I was asking for in this thread.

Instead, stop questioning if any of us are medical professionals, most posters made it clear they are not. I would like to have heard your medical communities opinion based on the facts you referred to.

Medical practice is a growing and changing force. Scientists (medical and otherwise) learn new things by the minute. What was thought to be truth many years ago may not be truth now due to modern medicine.

YOUR post was arrogant. Get over YOURSELF and present your side of this issue.

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Posted: December 26, 2014, 1:02 PM
I believe that addiction starts as a choice to use or not use drugs/alcohol but sooner than they can stop there is a change that occurs in the brain chemistry of an addict that no longer makes it a choice but a need. A need to not be sick and detox and research has proven that the brain chemistry of addicts are different than non drug users. I do believe that the brain can heal itself depending on how long they have been on the drug or drugs and once healed it can then become a a choice again but when they are in a current state of using or early recovery, I do believe 100% that it is a disease and should be treated as such with medications and counseling that can help keep them stay clean to allow the brain to heal.

Posted: May 1, 2015, 4:37 PM
that person is a nasty, hateful person. I think anger and lack of sympathy is the disease in that persons case

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Posted: May 3, 2015, 9:05 AM
I was in that school of thought "just say no!" until I experienced addiction with family members and everything changed in terms of my opinion. Since going to al anon I have noticed that usually there are several members in a family who experience addiction problems. When in university I remember a prof telling us about studies involving addictions and genetic links....or family links. Here in lies the predisposition theory. Does an alcoholic have a drink, even get drunk and not drink for a long time after that experience? That is what happens to a social drinker. I can't remember the last time that I had a drink, Christmas maybe? I didn't feel drunk in any case. My experience with alcoholics is that having a drink or even a few is usually not their intention, they continue drinking to the point of silliness or in some cases belligerence. Their remorse when sober appears real but not strong enough to prevent doing it again and again. This lack of control is also found in people who smoke and overeat....self destructive behaviour but behaviour that even the threat of death is not enough for some to stop. Addiction is a mental illness and it is no different from the heart problems that maybe you or I were genetically predisposed to have. The only difference is the huge stigma attacked to addiction and that is because of the behaviour the addict displays. Just look at all those addicts on the street, we give up on most of them.We also for the most part give up on many mentally ill persons because many end up in jail due to aggressive behaviour towards others. The problem is a big one and more time, effort and resources have to be spend....this problem of addiction/mental illness is expanding and making the 21 century a more dangerous place for both the mentally ill and all of us.
Alcohol is a drug but easier to get on the street. Same destruction, soul destroying on families and the addict.

This post has been edited by kimmy on May 3, 2015, 9:07 AM
Richard MacInnis

Posted: May 3, 2015, 5:50 PM

You're right that cancer and diabetes aren't choices. But neither is addiciton. Smoking is a choice, and it gives you lung cancer. Eating lots of sugar is a choice, and it causes diabetes. Most people who drink (or even most people who use cocaine actually) don't develop an addiction. Once you have an addiction, though, it's infinitely harder to stop. My grandfather died of lung cancer, and smoked until he was hospitalized full time, even though he knew it was killing him.

I do agree with the sentiment of your message, however, and I think it's best said "addiction isn't a choice, recovery is". Just as with diabetes, if I don't continue monitoring my blood sugar, and I don't change my diet, then my death is my fault, despite the disease that complicated it.

Posted: May 19, 2015, 11:01 AM
Is addiction a disease, this is easy, do you think someone would risk there family, career, and status, just to be high?
I was a vice president of a company who had to find out the hard way I was a addict.
I never thought I would be a addict, I never wanted to be addict.
I had the perfect life the big house, the beautiful wife and wonderful kids.
I turned out to be a lying piece of s*** that was only worried about turn off my brain with drugs
after many years of help and therapy I have finally gotten this in front of me.
drug addiction is like being a diabetic, its not a choice .

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Posted: May 21, 2015, 9:44 PM
All the new research is saying that addiction is a "brain disease" caulm said it best in his comment above.

I can quit anytime. I did it a million times.

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Posted: May 27, 2015, 5:38 PM
nope, i am an "addict" (hate that word) and i'm in recovery/clean. a disease is cancer, a disease is something you catch, something that needs medication to cure/heal, it's something you didn't have any control over.

many people may get angry with this comment. but all of us had a choice, we chose to do what we did/do, we chose to abuse substances to the point we made our bodies believe we need it. we trained ourselves to become so highly dependent on something that we now believe we can't control it.

it is a choice to carry on doing what you do and you can chose not to do it anymore. it may feel challenging but lots of us kick this habit and i'm living proof. once you say i will never do this again and believe it, and promise yourself and take full responsibility over your past and your future then that is when things will start getting better. a disease cannot be told to go away, it cannot be controlled by just one decision in our heads. we did not just get this, we did it to ourselves.

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Posted: June 21, 2015, 1:38 AM
Verbally describing addiction is rather like blind men describing an elephant (click link).

Six blind men describe an elephant

Whereas, the reality of addiction is more like THIS (again, click link).

The reality of experiencing addiction

The article by Dr. Leshner referenced on this website's home page (just under the large grey-scale quote appearing above the pictured bust of a young man's smiling face) uses both "brain disease" and "chronic recurring illness" to describe addiction. He also make the apt analogy of addiction to a "highjacked" brain which validates the contributions of both Caulm & corsx, above. Leshner states, "Addiction involves inseparable biological and behavioral components" (emphasis mine).

As Sportsgirl points out, the addict made a choice (and some would argue, the same bad choice again and again) at some early point to use. suspectdj agrees and then captures well what Dr. Leshner says more pedantically about casual use growing into addiction; "Become addicted [and] your life will change dramatically!!!".

That is to say, the choice for recovery is a choice made (or refused) WITH A DIFFERENT BRAIN and is a choice with fundamentally, DECIDEDLY different requirements to fulfill. Should I, say, "eat a dish of ice cream?" versus should I "move to a poor neighborhood in Indonesia and start a new career in a new field while I'm learning the local language?".

Joe C makes an insightful experiential connection between OCD and the experience of being overtaken by addiction. Many very long-term addicts no longer "LIKE" the substance and it no longer provides the exalting "PLEASURE" it once did, but now they "CRAVE", pine for and seek out through craft and wont (look it up) the object not of their OWN desire, but of the addiction's desire until the addiction, the new master, the NOW master is oh, so very temporarily sated...

Once addicted the brain is altered ("highjacked") beyond the addict's capacity to either use as they once did or to repair without formal, focused assistance. Moreover, the subjective experience of that addiction varies from addict to addict according to genetic characteristics, a host of social and environmental factors, even such mundane influences as the food and fluids they use for nourishment.

And then the Master, the addiction, awakens from it's brief slumber and screams out again in all it's many voices for the object of IT'S desire. The wailing of the voices drowns out reason, judgement, will and responsibility... all manner of connections to kin and caring fly away and only that Master remains, with the force of a charging elephant, and only obedience to the Master's demand remains. There is no heed to "disease" or "illness" or "decision" or "recovery" or any other external form or device except to still the voices of the master.

This post has been edited by Anazam on June 22, 2015, 1:58 AM

Posted: August 29, 2015, 7:12 PM
For someone who claims to be both intelligent and an expert on addiction I'm staggered by both the ignorance and the lack of empathy in your post. Although I can't speak for all addicts, I know that my 'life' is very short of parties. I live a horrible half-life of clandestine meetings with people who are not particularly nice in order to take a substance I hate with a passion.

I appreciate that you probably won't agree me but the cold hard truth is that both your and my opinion is largely irrelevant. The statistical probability is that I will die prematurely as a result of my addiction. Despite this knowledge I am unable to stop. I would probably have a similar opinion to you if I didn't have addiction but please believe that it is about as far from being a party as it is possible to get. I recognise that both cancer and diabetes are horrible diseases but to my knowledge they don't make you any more dead than addiction does.
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