Addiction as a Disease

Addiction as a Disease

Addiction is  NOT a character flaw,  personality disorder, or a moral failingIt is a health problem, a disease which is treatable.Addiction is treatable & Recovery is possible!A disease alters the normal function of the body, organ, or system and it has a set of signs and symptoms.What are the signs and symptoms experienced by you? (Make a list)For a disease, there is always an etiological agent or an external cause. What are those?

    • Examples:
    • For AIDS, the etiological agent is HIV
    • For a severe sore throat, the etiological agent is probably a bacteria
    • For Covid-19, the agent is corona virus.

Similarly, for addiction, the agent is the substance. It is alcohol that causes the disease of alcoholism or drugs for drug dependents.Just as not everyone exposed to a cold virus will actually get a cold, not everyone who is exposed to a substance will become addicted to it too. Similarly, everyone who uses alcohol does not become alcoholic, and everyone who takes drugs does not become a drug addict too. That is why, we have many social drinkers in the society, and few have developed addiction. You could be one of those “unlucky users” who progressed into addiction.If you experienced some symptoms of addiction, you might require professional assistance. Remember, addiction is classified as disease by the World Health Organization treatment is required.One’s environment and genetics play a crucial role in developing addiction.Now, lets look into the definition of addiction by the World Health Organization: “Addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive substance seeking and use, despite harmful consequences”- (WHO)

  • It is Chronic,means it is long lasting and cannot be cured but can be only managed.
  • It is Relapsing,like diabetics, even in addiction, one can experience relapses sometimes.  
  • It is a brain disease,means substances actually change the structure of the brain and how it works
  • There is a compulsion to use, despite harmful consequences.

We call it a brain disease because alcohol or drugs alters the way we think, feel or behave. These actions are controlled by the brain and if substances enters the body, the functions of the brain get affected, resulting malfunctioning and disruption of the brain communication system. Look at the graphics of the brain and its various functions:

As shown in the picture, brain has various functions and various parts of the brain has specific roles to play. Some parts control our sensation, some our vision, and other parts controls our coordination, pain, memory, reward, judgement, movement and so on. When alcohol or drugs enters the brain, it affects the normal functioning and causes disorder. That is why, we call addiction as “substance use disorder” or as a disease.

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