If we look at addiction through a scientific lens, there is no refuting that addiction IS REALLY a disease; 1st, what is the definition of “disease”? One definition is that a disease can be a hereditary condition that causes major illness or impairment. Let’s compare addiction to heart disease. Have you ever gone into the doctor’s office and filled out a new patient form? It will invariably ask if anyone in your family has had heart disease. Why do they ask that? Is your doctor just being a snoop? I don’t think so. You are being asked that because heart disease is what’s called a heritable condition. Your doctor needs to know that information because family history is a risk factor for developing heart disease. Does this mean that you will, for sure, develop heart disease just because some of your relatives had heart disease? No, of course not. But it creates a situation in which you are more predisposed to develop heart disease, especially if you have other risk factors (smoking, overweight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc). The greater number of risk factors you encounter, the a lot of seemingly you’re prone to develop the “disease”.
Addiction is not all that much different from heart disease. It is also a disease that runs in families. It can be quite disabling. And, it requires treatment. If your mom, dad, brothers, sisters or grandparents suffered from addiction, you have a higher chance of developing addiction yourself. You are predisposed to developing addiction because of heredity. Some people may be more highly susceptible to the throws of addiction than others. Addiction may also be subject to risk factors such as repeated exposure to drugs or alcohol, childhood trauma, depression, anxiety, stress, etc.
So, now there is no question. Addiction is a heritable condition that causes major impairment or disability. Hence, it is a disease.
Now, I must say that there is some good that comes out of the mind-set of saying that addiction is not a disease. Well, let’s say “half-good”. The half that is good is that it forces you to look at underlying causes behind the addiction. That is to say, underlying core issues that have further predisposed you to develop the disease of addiction. Thus, in the treatment of addiction, one does not totally focus on the disease process. That is only half of the story. The other half focuses on the behind the scenes stuff that precipitated the addiction in the first place. Maybe it was repeated trauma in childhood or a major depressive illness. In any case, it is just as important to look at the reasons behind the addiction a really a disease itself.
So now you can see, the viewpoints that addiction is a disease and it is caused by underlying issues can peacefully co-exist. Most importantly, they should be treated simultaneously. That is the focus of the cutting edge addiction studies currently. And guess what? The best success is seen when both the disease process and the core issues are treated concurrently.
Does this surprise you?