Why Addiction is Considered to be a Disease

Your questions for a substance abuse treatment centre answered why addiction is considered to be a disease

The Cabin Chiang Mai, Asia’s most respected substance abuse treatment centre, regularly receives phone calls and emails regarding drugs, alcohol, and addiction treatment. Several people, including clients and their families, come to us and ask why addiction is considered to be a disease. To help those and any other individual wanting to know the answer, here is why addiction to drugs or alcohol is recognised as being a disease.

Addiction and Disease

Addiction is considered to be a disease because it meets the exact same ‘requirements’ as other disorders and diseases, including terminal illnesses. This is noted because all addiction treatment experts and medical professionals agree that addiction is 100% fatal. The requirements which classify addiction as a disease are as follows:

  • The symptoms of addiction are very similar, or the same, to various types of substances. For example, whether the drug is cocaine or alcohol, the general symptoms are typically the same.
  • Addiction is a chronic illness that needs some kind of substance abuse treatment.
  • The symptoms are progressive, meaning they worsen over time, and will eventually result in death.
  • Just as other diseases resurface, addiction causes relapses in many people
  • Addiction is treatable

In many instances addiction is diagnosed through various behaviours and patterns rather than physical symptoms or medical testing.

A Comparison

Take for example Type 2 Diabetes and addiction. Type 2 Diabetes includes a genetic component; however, not everyone with this predisposition will develop it. Those that do will exhibit symptoms if their diet is high in carbs or they do not exercise enough, they will gain excessive weight. Therefore, we have a genetic component as well as a social or life style component.

Addiction to drugs or alcohol works in a similar way. Let’s look at alcoholism; it too appears to have genetic components (30-60% of those addicted carry a genetic component), but those that may have these components are not guaranteed to develop an addiction to alcohol. It will depend on the social exposure to alcohol just as diabetes depends on the individuals’ behaviour. It should be noted that family history, exposure to alcohol, and other environmental factors make up for the other 40-70%.

As with diabetes, without addiction treatment, the overall condition will worsen. Diabetics will require insulin, may develop organ and nerve damage and in can die from related illnesses including kidney failure and heart disease. Addictions also progress without substance abuse treatment and can cause various organ and nerve damage depending on the drug and method of use.

An Addicts Behaviour

The behaviour of an addict will greatly affect the speed at which the disease will destroy them. For example, an overdose can kill an individual, an infection may take longer but can still kill, and nutritional deficits can also kill but may take an even longer amount of time. The overall end result is still the same sickness or death as a result of using drugs or drinking alcohol regularly.

Just as a person with a terminal illness or other disease would get treatment, a drug or alcohol addict should be able to do the same. However, with an addiction to a harmful substance, addicts often are unable to, or do not want to admit that they are in fact addicted and need help. In these instances, it is the people around the addict that can step in and help the individual get the addiction treatment that they need.

If you or someone you know has an addiction to drugs or alcohol and would like to get help at a substance abuse treatment centre, contact The Cabin Chiang Mai today, we can help you or your loved one breakthrough addiction and learn to live a happy sober life.