Is Addiction a Disease? [National Recovery Month]

is addiction a disease?

~ This blog was written by Brooke Lamberti, BS, and clinically reviewed by Jason Kuna, LPC. ~

September is National Recovery Month, a time to raise awareness about addiction and celebrate those who have overcome it. One of the ongoing debates about addiction is whether it is a disease or a choice. While some people believe that addiction is a personal failure, many experts agree that addiction is a chronic and progressive brain disease.

 

What is Addiction?

Addiction is a complex condition that affects the brain, behavior, and body. It is characterized by compulsive drug use despite harmful consequences. Addiction changes the brain’s reward system, making it more difficult for individuals to quit using drugs or alcohol. This can lead to physical and psychological dependence, making it challenging to overcome addiction without professional help.

 

Is Addiction a Disease?

Yes, addiction is widely recognized as a disease by medical professionals and organizations such as the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization. Addiction is a chronic and progressive brain disease that affects the brain’s reward system and leads to compulsive drug use despite harmful consequences.

Addiction changes the brain’s structure and function, making it more challenging for individuals to quit using drugs or alcohol without professional help. While addiction can start with a choice to use drugs or alcohol, continued use can lead to physical and psychological dependence, making it a disease that requires medical intervention to overcome.

 

Is Addiction Officially a Disease?

Yes, addiction is officially recognized as a disease by several medical organizations, including the American Medical Association (AMA) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The AMA has classified addiction as a disease since 1956, and the WHO added “addictive disorders” to their International Classification of Diseases (ICD) in 1967.

In 2011, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) released a new definition of addiction, stating that it is a “primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry.” This definition highlights the complex nature of addiction and the need for medical intervention to treat it effectively. Overall, the consensus among medical professionals is that addiction is a disease that requires specialized treatment and ongoing support.

 

How Does Addiction Change the Brain?

Addiction changes the brain in several ways, including:

  • Altering the brain’s reward system: Drugs and alcohol hijack the brain’s reward system, releasing dopamine, a neurotransmitter that creates a pleasurable sensation. Over time, the brain’s reward system becomes less responsive to natural rewards like food or social interaction and more responsive to drugs and alcohol.
  • Changing the brain’s structure: Addiction can change the structure of the brain, specifically the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making, impulse control, and judgment. This can make it difficult for individuals to resist drug or alcohol cravings and make rational decisions.
  • Affecting neurotransmitters: Addiction can affect other neurotransmitters besides dopamine, such as serotonin and norepinephrine. This can lead to mood disorders like depression and anxiety, which can further fuel addiction.
  • Creating tolerance and dependence: Over time, the brain can become tolerant to drugs and alcohol, requiring higher doses to achieve the same effects. Continued use can also lead to physical and psychological dependence, making quitting challenging without professional help.

These changes in the brain can make it difficult for individuals to quit using drugs or alcohol, even if they want to. Professional treatment and therapy can help individuals overcome addiction and rewire their brains to respond to natural rewards once again.

 

Treatment for Addiction

There are several treatment options available for addiction, including:

1. Detoxification

This is typically the first step in addiction treatment and involves safely managing withdrawal symptoms as the body clears itself of drugs or alcohol.

2. Inpatient or Residential Treatment

This type of treatment involves living at a treatment facility and receiving around-the-clock care and support from medical professionals.

3. Outpatient Treatment

This type of treatment allows individuals to live at home while receiving regular therapy and medical support.

4. Behavioral Therapy

This type of therapy focuses on changing behavior and helping individuals develop coping mechanisms to manage triggers and cravings.

5. Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

This type of treatment involves using medication to help reduce drug or alcohol cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

6. Support Groups

Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous can provide ongoing support and encouragement for individuals in recovery.

treatment for addiction with group therapy; is addiction a disease?

 

Addiction Therapy in Wilkes-Barre, PA

The best treatment option will depend on the individual’s needs and addiction severity. Working with a medical professional to determine the most effective treatment plan for long-term recovery is essential. In Wilkes-Barre, addiction therapy services provided by Dr. John G. Kuna and Associates can also be an effective part of an addiction treatment plan. Therapy can help individuals address underlying emotional and psychological issues related to addiction and develop coping strategies for lasting recovery.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, addiction is a disease that requires professional help to overcome. Therapy is essential to addiction treatment and can help individuals achieve lasting recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction in Wilkes-Barre, consider contacting Dr. John G. Kuna and Associates for therapy services. Let’s continue to raise awareness about addiction and celebrate those who have overcome it during National Recovery Month.

Brooke Lamberti


Brooke Lamberti is a content writer based out of Scranton, Pennsylvania. She received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Marywood University, and has prior career experience working in social work and domestic violence advocacy. She has a passion for writing and helping others.